Carbon Uncaptured

CCS technology pilot project at Longannet A carbon capture storage pilot project has been running at Longannet

The collapse of the Longannet project in carbon capture and storage leaves some significant gaps and questions.

For instance, if not in Fife, where is it going to work?

And for how much? Perhaps the Scottish Power led business consortium was trying it on, to get more than the £1bn on offer.

The UK government says there were technological obstacles to the carbon capture and storage (CCS) project going further than the £50m design stage - £30m of that paid for by the taxpayer.

But it looks like the main obstacle was the cost of the technology.

Huge benefits

So, does the UK government really know any better what the cost is of a hugely complex new technology? If it's worth spending £1bn to achieve the technology, why is it not worth £1.5bn?

And if the £1bn has not been pauchled by the Treasury - still being available for the next stages of CCS development, we're told - can the government be sure that other projects - perhaps one in Peterhead - can be done within arbitrarily chosen budget ceilings?

This is supposed to be a technology with the potential not only to deliver huge commercial benefits to those who harness it, but also to deliver far larger environmental benefits to everyone.

By removing carbon from fossil-fuel burning, processing, transporting and burying it under the seabed, that could make it possible to rely on coal, gas and oil burning for power.

Wind blown

But if Britain continues to delay, or won't commit the necessary funding, which other countries will take the technological lead?

Hunterston Power Station Questions remain over plans for a new coal-burning plant at Hunterston

We've seen this sort of thing happen before to Britain's renewable energy lead, when it was one of the best at wind power.

Government support was withdrawn as it withdrew from industrial policy in the 1980s. And turbine technology now comes from Denmark, Germany and Spain, with developments also from industrial giants in Japan, China and Korea.

It's not just the current government that's to blame. Labour - including Ed Miliband when he was environment and climate change secretary - spun out the competition for years, setting deadlines that kept slipping and making it unattractive for companies to stay engaged.

Belching in Fife

There's another gap, closer to home. If it's going to prove this difficult or impossibly expensive to make CCS work, what's going to happen to Longannet? And to the plans for a new coal-burning plant at Hunterston?

The huge power station in Fife belches around quarter of Scotland's carbon emissions, it's licensed for another nine years, but what then keeps the lights on?

And how can either the UK or the Scottish government meet their legally-binding emission targets if this technology can't be made to work for the kind of money available?

Douglas Fraser Article written by Douglas Fraser Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Question to Douglas -
    I wonder how many project planned for Scotland have already,
    or will be, shelved by the UK government, in the run up to the
    independence referendum ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    28 neo
    So true... but the UK government will not invest it in Scotland.
    In fact there will a reduction of everything that would reflect positively on the
    SNP-led Scottish government. Look out for a sort of "economic scorched earth policy" in the run up to the Independence referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Ultimately Carbon Capture and Storage is about much more than climate change. I many ways (many billions of ways in fact) it is an irrelevance to CCS and is off topic.

    Injecting CO2 into a depleted oil and gas reservoir will enhance (by up to 23%) the amount of recoverable oil gas - this will be taxed by the government so the £1billion will be recovered.


    With interest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    There is a plus side for Scotland if "global warming" is real
    - the rain in summer will be much warmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    GW is a fabrication used by environmentalists and based on dubious studies by scientists that have been sponsored by the same environmentalists. The seesaw of predictions, for either warming or cooling, over the past 40 years has caused the phrase "Climate Change" to be utilised when they get it wrong. As Rhymer says these predictions are based on computer models and are not backed up by evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    If I switch off one of my front sitting room lights, have one bath a week, drive a hybrid car, don't take a jet on holiday and switch my heating thermostat down a couple of degrees does that compensate for farmers in South America, South East Asia or Africa buring down acres and acres of jungle?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    23 maroonfever
    Not really stupid comments. ALL of the climate forecasts are based on computer models and between GIGO and anomalies there are lots of doubts .
    Nobdy doubts that the planet is warming up - the doubts are whether mankind is the cause (as the mad greenies say) or are we simply passengers being carried along by planetary cycles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Stop making stupid comments. Grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    They have really good data sets for...oh at least 50 years...and in some cases an incredible 30 years...which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot as far as predicting the global climate is concerned

    Apparently climate change people can predict a horse race after only seeing one horse in the entire field run once

    ...truly amazing people...yup, worth every penny that the government pays them

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Unfortunately you have to figure things out for yourself and do your own due diligence because of the propaganda and tax war and vested government interest.
    The BBC, being a government sponsored entity always puts anything which says "globul warming is true !" slap bang on the front page.

    Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    A great article here, it links to things like thermal efficiency etc.
    Around 70% of our energy requirement is heat.

    We've got some pretty huge choices to make over the next few decades and the whole subject is intriguing.
    Solar is a fantastic direct heat system...but not very good for making electricity...and so on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I've had a pretty close look at this stuff recently, I'm a global warming sceptic and I think it's just a tax raising scam.

    We need energy, mainly heat energy, and the most efficient system is...fossil fuels.

    If you convert solar to electricity it's about 30% efficiency, and if you convert electricity back to heat it's about 30% efficiency.
    So 1000watts of energy yields 90watts of heat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    ... and on that billion ... London politicians will prefer to spend our money as close to London as possible. If we are going to be compelled to pay carbon taxes soon enough who will pay the most? The coal power stations not capturing carbon, even if it is all a scam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    How can we be sure we're not being totally scammed by the corporations? They want another billion pounds of our money to add to the kickbacks they've already received for the wind turbines. Water vapour not co2 is the most abundant green house gas. .. and as others have said the earth will warm up regardless .. probably due to changes in its orbit around the sun. ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    11 wulk
    Nobody disbelieves the "global warming" message - it is obvious
    since we are still in the process of coming out of the last ice age.
    What people don't agree about is the extent that mankind is contributing to this process. It is not a totally man-made event.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Was that billion pounds allocated for a carbon capture scheme in Scotland
    or will pop up again somewhere in England or will it disappear into the bowels of the treasury and never be seen again ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Graham, Carbon Tax is very real and we have signed up to it.

    The thing thats 'loony' as you put it is your comment about 100's of billions, I think you're slightly over-estimating the cost of this scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    12 Edward
    I agree totally.
    maybe Douglas will be attending so at least we will have an economic viewpoint since the BBC obviously considers the Scottish political viewpoint
    not to be important. I want my licence fee back !

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Where on the BBC can we find live coverage of the SNP Conference?
    Largest political party in Scotland
    First Scottish government to have an overall majority
    The only government in the UK, thats not in coalition
    Diplomats form 20 differnt countries attending
    150 media outlets attending
    But somehow I cant see any live coverage on the state broadcaster, why is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I would point out to Graham that, although he seems to discredit the majority of the scientific worlds' opinion on global warming, that, the methods used to combat GW are exactly the same as used to combat global pollution. I doubt if Graham disputes that GP exists, and, is a world threat.
    Anything that helps to combat global pollution, is, imho, a good thing.


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