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Shell and SSE join forces for UK’s first carbon-capture project

Firms announce CCS plans for Peterhead power station following collapse of £1bn proposals for Longannet

Shell and SSE hope to bring carbon-capture to Peterhead despite the cancellation of plans at Longannet (above). Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Two major energy companies have combined forces to bolster the case to build the UK’s first carbon-capture project at Peterhead power station near Aberdeen.

The power company SSE and Shell, the fuel producer, announced their alliance after the collapse of £1bn proposals to fit carbon-capture and storage (CCS) plant to Longannet coal-fired power station, one of Europe’s largest coal-powered stations, last month.

Ministers have insisted they are still committed to funding a pilot project but the collapse of the ScottishPower scheme at Longannet has damaged confidence that the UK will build carbon-capture plant.

A decision on another major CCS project, at a new coal-fired station at Hunterston in Ayrshire is now expected to be delayed for at least a year after receiving a record number of objections.

Councillors in North Ayrshire are anticipated to vote against the project, forcing the Scottish government to order a lengthy public inquiry.

The Peterhead gas-fired power station is owned by SSE and was one of the first to be mooted for carbon-capture. A small pilot project there by BP to make hydrogen and pump the CO2 into North Sea seabed was scrapped because of lack of government support.

It is one of several British schemes in the running for European funding, including the Ayrshire Power project at Hunterston.

Shell and SSE said they would accelerate their planning and designs for Peterhead, to retrofit CCS equipment to one of its three 385MW combined gas cycle turbines. The CO2 would then be piped to Shell’s Goldeneye gas field in the North Sea.

Ian Marchant, the chief executive of SSE, said: “If long-term targets for reducing emissions are to be met, CCS technology must be applied as widely as possible.

“We therefore welcomed the UK government’s decision to include gas-fired generation plant in its CCS demonstration programme.

“However, the development of a commercial-scale CCS demonstration project presents significant challenges and will require appropriate levels of support from both the EU and UK government.”

The Peterhead alliance was welcomed, if cautiously, by WWF Scotland, the Scottish Labour party and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, said this could be “game changing” technology. “CCS technology could transform carbon-reduction efforts across the world, particularly in fast-growing economies. As such, it has the potential to become a significant export industry for these islands, and for Scotland in particular.” he said.

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