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The Observer: Centrica will challenge decision on coal plant

Tim Webb
Sunday October 14, 2007

Centrica is considering calling for a judicial review to overturn a government decision which excludes most energy companies from the contest to build the world’s first green coal plant.

John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Berr), last week barred most companies’ existing designs by unexpectedly favouring an alternative clean coal technology.

Shell, Scottish and Southern Energy, Conoco-Philips and Marathon Oil, plus Centrica, have spent almost £100m developing the now redundant plans.

This weekend, Centrica’s chief executive Sam Laidlaw is writing a formal letter of complaint to Hutton. It is understood Laidlaw will warn that as a result of last week’s announcement, business confidence in investing in such expensive green technologies has been ‘profoundly shaken’.

Laidlaw could take the unprecedented step of leading industry calls for a judicial review to overturn the decision, according to industry sources.

Next month, the government will invite bids from companies to build the estimated £1bn pilot carbon capture and storage (CCS) coal plant in the UK.

Coal plants which use CCS cut carbon emissions by up to 90 per cent, as the carbon dioxide released when the coal is burnt is stored underground, rather than released into the atmosphere.

There are two main technologies: ‘post-combustion’, which removes carbon after coal is burnt, and ‘pre-combustion’. Last week, the government said it would only accept ‘post-combustion’ plans as the technology could be ‘retro-fitted’ to existing dirty coal plants.,,2190587,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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