Longannet carbon capture and storage projects falls through

Longannet power station

The Longannet carbon capture and storage (CCS) project has fallen through, following a breakdown in discussions between the UK government and development partners Scottish Power, Shell and National Grid.

The project at Scottish Power’s 2400 MW coal-fired power station in Fife, Scotland had been the last one standing in the government’s long-running £1 billion CCS demonstration programme competition.

According to media reports, Scottish Power, Shell and National Grid were concerned that the £1 billion on the table from the government was not enough to support the project and were looking for a further £0.5 billion in public support.

However, the government has reiterated its support for CCS and says that the £1 billion in funds in still available for other projects.

“Despite everyone working extremely hard, we’ve not been able to reach a satisfactory deal for a project at Longannet at this time, so we’ve taken the decision to pursue alternative projects,” said Energy Secretary Chris Huhne in a statement yesterday. “£1 billion is enough to demonstrate this vital new technology in the UK, but it’s got to be spent in the most effective way.”

But environmental group WWF-UK has strongly criticised the government’s decision over Longannet, which it says was the best value option for the UK to trial CCS.

“This announcement is very frustrating and damaging for the credibility of the UK CCS demonstration programme, especially as Longannet was an ideal choice for a demonstration site,” says WWF-UK’s head of energy policy, Nick Molho. “There’s a real need to get a well-focused CCS demonstration project off the ground so we can determine whether the technology could indeed play a useful role in decarbonising our power system by 2030.”

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), which had urged the government to move ahead with CCS earlier this week, has also expressed disappointment over the failure of the project.

“This decision is a huge blow, threatening the UK’s leadership in producing a vital technology to combat climate change,” says general secretary Brendan Barber. “It’s much more likely that our global competitors will now reap the benefits of the UK government’s inaction and become the winners in the race to develop an effective version of this emerging technology.”

Business lobby group the CBI also expressed disappointment, but urged the government to move ahead swiftly with alternative projects like SSE’s at its gas-fired Peterhead power station in Aberdeenshire.

The government says that it is expects a number of promising new bids from both Scotland and England for the funds and will outline its long term strategy for CCS in the UK – including a selection process for new CCS projects – in the near future.

Scottish Power says it will make all the information gathered during the initial stages of the Longannet project available to other developers through the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) knowledge transfer programme.

“The Consortium is immensely proud of the work we have completed in the last four years,” says ScottishPower’s generation director, Hugh Finlay. “Our combined efforts have seen this potentially world-changing technology develop from being a concept in a laboratory to a definitive blueprint that could be implemented.”

For further information:

Related stories:
Failing to invest now in carbon capture is risking jobs, say UK’s trade unions (18-Oct)
Scottish Energy Minister urges UK Government to support Longannet CCS project (13-Oct)
UK must maintain momentum in rollout of carbon capture and storage (12-Sept)
SSE applies for EU funding for Peterhead CCS project (11-Feb)

20 October 2011