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Shell joins ScottishPower Longannet consortium

Times Online

October 6, 2009

ScottishPower bullish on £1bn Longannet power station in Fife

Peter Jones

ScottishPower is confident that Longannet in Fife will be chosen for a £1 billion project to be Britain’s first clean power station, despite failing in a bid for European funding support.

The company believes significant technical breakthroughs will see it convert one of Longannet’s four generating systems to full-scale electricity-making by 2014, earlier than any of its rivals. At stake is a subsidy of about £1 billion from the British government for a full-scale carbon capture demonstration project. The company’s confidence is undimmed despite missing out on an EU subsidy, which is believed to have gone to a company looking to build a power station at Hatfield, Yorkshire.

Last week, Nick Horler, chief executive of ScottishPower, said: “We are on the edge of a real breakthrough in the chemical capturing process.” ScottishPower is competing with two German-owned electricity firms that have proposed projects in England. The aim is to cut the carbon output of a coal-fired power station by 90 per cent.

Longannet ScottishPower is confident that Longannet in Fife will be chosen for a £1 billion project to be Britain’s first clean power station, despite having lost out in a bid for European funding support (Peter Jones writes).

The company believes that significant technical brealthroughs have put it on track to convert one of Longannet’s four generating systems to full-scale electricity generation by 2014, earlier than it believes any of its rivals can do. At stake is a a subsidy of about £1 billion from the British government to build a full-scale carbon capture demonstration project.

The company’s confidence is undimmed despite it having apparently lost out in a bid to win an EU subsidy to test carbon capture and storage technology. The European award is believed to have gone to a company planning to build a power station at Hatfield in Yorkshire.

Their confidence is based on tests which have been running since May at Longannet trialling small-scale tests on different ways of removing carbon from the power station’s exhaust gases.

Last week, Nick Horler, ScottishPower’s chief executive, told a conference on carbon capture that there was now a “real buzz” among the 25 scientists and engineers working on the project.

He said: “We have now been capturing CO2 for about 2000 hours and whilst the majority of our work in this area is commercially sensitive, I can tell you that we are on the edge of a real breakthrough in the chemical capturing process.”

The breakthrough is understood to centre on how the chemicals involved in the process can be re-used several times and how the energy needed to make the process work can be reduced.

The discoveries made through practical tests should significantly reduce the cost of capturing the carbon, making the cost of clean coal electricity generation much cheaper than has so far been predicted using theoretical models.

ScottishPower is competing against two German-owned electricity firms which have proposed projects in England . The aim is to cut the carbon output of a coal-fired power station, the biggest single sources of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, by 90 per cent.

Achievement of the goal would not only allow the government to get a long way towards its goal of an 80 per cent cut the 1990 level of carbon emissions by 2050, but could also create a major new British industry employing up to 60,000 people based on exporting the technology.

The Longannet project, like its rivals, is based on capturing carbon after burning coal. The Hatfield proposal is to capturing the carbon after coal has been turned into gas, but before the gas has been burned to generate electricity.

This different pre-combustion technique is regarded as important in reducing carbon output from gas-fired power stations, but is some way behind the post-combustion technology being developed by ScottishPower.

The company behind the Hatfield plan, Powerfuel, only received planning permission to build a power station near Doncaster in February, and electricity generation using gasified coal is an as yet largely unused technique.

The European Commission grant of about £160 million will pay for technical planning studies. A ScottishPower spokesman commented: “Whilst we are awaiting official confirmation from the Commission and the actual award is some months off, ScottishPower’s carbon capture and storage consortium remains focused on and committed to delivering a demonstration project in the UK.”

Last week, Mr Horler insisted that the ScottishPower plan had “tremendous momentum” behind it, adding: “We are now ready to demonstrate, at commercial scale, carbon capture and storage here in the UK at Longannet and be up and running by 2014 and realise the massive potential both economic and environmentally of this revolutionary technology.”

Oil company Shell has joined ScottishPower in a consortium to develop the project and it is believed to have made rapid progress in working out plans to pipe the captured carbon out to exhausted North Sea oilfields where it will be permanently stored underground.

TIMES ARTICLE

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