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Carbon Capture Storage IS viable – and we can use it in Scotland to create jobs and hit climate targets
By Indira Mann, SCCS
A NEW report casting doubt on the viability of the climate change technology, carbon capture and storage (CCS), was yesterday covered by The National.
The report by energy economist, Prof Gordon Hughes, for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), claims that CCS will never be realised due to its high cost.
It points to millions already spent in “trying to get carbon capture to work for coal-fired power stations” and suggests that, in a future where coal will still be relied upon, in developing countries at least, CCS will be too expensive to deploy.
The GWPF is a think tank set up to challenge what it claims are “extremely damaging and harmful” policies aimed at mitigating climate change, and it calls into question the scientific basis for taking action.
Climate change is no myth. It is already affecting millions of people, and adversely impacting on ecosystems, around the globe. More than nine out of 10 climate scientists agree that its cause is carbon emissions. In 2013, a review of more than 4000 research papers showed that 97 per cent of them pointed to humans as the cause of global warming.
That brings us to the potential for CCS technology, alongside using energy more efficiently and weaning ourselves off fossil fuels for good.
Full-chain CCS is already operating worldwide – on natural gas production, on refining and, yes, on coal-fired power. Last year, Norway celebrated 20 years of safe operations at its Sleipner natural gas field. Sleipner and a subsequent project, Snohvit, have collectively stored over 20 million tonnes of CO2 and shown that North Sea CCS is both technically viable and geologically secure.
We have a huge and as yet untapped opportunity to deliver CCS in the UK. It has failed to get off the ground here, not because it is a “Utopian dream” or “too expensive” but because of last-minute Treasury U-turns and a lack of clear policy for investors to rely on.
In Scotland, the government recognises the value of CCS as a means of achieving climate targets (domestic and Paris Agreement obligations), building a new economic opportunity, transitioning the skills and workforce of the oil and gas industry and exporting Scottish expertise.
A new industry making use of our vast and well-understood CO2 storage resource beneath the North Sea could serve the rest of Europe, which has a lot of carbon to shift. Hughes focuses on coal, but CCS has wider applications. Currently, it is the only technology that can help industry tackle emissions while remaining competitive.
The Teesside Collective, a grouping of industrial emitters, has recognised this opportunity and is developing plans for an industry “cluster” sharing access to offshore CO2 storage. In Scotland, we have similar opportunities, for example, at Grangemouth, where Summit Power is designing a CCS project featuring a natural gas power station.
There is now much talk about the potential for hydrogen production with CCS to deliver zero-carbon heat and transport, which create a sizeable slice of our domestic emissions. Leeds City Gate H21 is one project worth checking out. Hydrogen is also being actively considered in Scotland: our draft Energy Strategy mentions hydrogen explicitly.
The cancellation of the UK Government’s CCS Competition wounded but did not kill hopes for delivering CCS here. We have learned from the experience and reshaped our approach. At SCCS, hundreds of researchers are working on delivering a cost-competitive, safe and effective CCS industry worldwide at a scale that can give us a fighting chance of reining in climate change.
In 2015, a study by the Energy Technologies Institute said a failure to deploy CCS would double the annual cost of reducing carbon emissions to the UK economy “from circa one per cent to two per cent of GDP by 2050”. And if we don’t get to grips with climate change, dealing with the consequences will knock any other costs right out of the ballpark.