Carbon capture

Air capture device could be key tool to tackling climate change

CO2 absorbing machine 1000s of times more powerful than a tree

Air capture of CO2 comes a step closerA device that can absorb carbon dioxide directly from the air in highly significant amounts was showcased in the UK for the first time in October 2011  as part of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Air Capture Week. Individual devices resemble a giant fly swat and are a thousand times more effective at absorbing carbon dioxide from the air than a tree of about the same size according to the IME, whose members are developing it.
The technology, which could allegedly be rolled-out as early as 2018, works by absorbing carbon dioxide CO2 from the air. Once captured, the CO2 could be used in industrial processes or  stored underground.

Dr Tim Fox, Head of Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said:
“As this device shows, this breakthrough technology works. What we need from Government and industry isn’t vast amounts of funding, but strategic direction of where this technology could fit in to the strategy for dealing with climate change. Apart from being a vital technology for dealing with difficult to manage emissions like those from aviation and shipping, this technology could also be a vital tool for setting a definitive price for CO2. Air capture technology can handle any type of CO2 emission from all sources, so would set an upper limit for a CO2 price and help drive down the costs of renewable energy.”

With  the forthcoming  international climate talks in Durban looking unlikely to deliver a legally binding deal to cut emissions, geo-engineering technologies are almost certain to become more of a priority.


Carbon Capture Proposal for Peterhead

Shell and SSE looking for the £1bn promised for CCS  by Westminster

Shell and Scottish and Southern Energy have said that they want to develop new CCS (carbon-capture and storage) technology at Peterhead power station – if they can get the funding for it.

The UK government has promised  £1bn to develop the technology, which will capture emissions from power stations and bury them under the sea bed. A proposed pilot project at Longannet in Fife was cancelled last month due to the cost, which the operators fol Longannet,  Scottish Power, estimated as £1.5bn. The UK government decided £1bn was the limit, and pulled the plug on the project.

CCS involves capturing and  liquefying  CO2 emissions then pumping them via pipeline  into to depleted oil and gas fields under the sea bed.

Longannet faced some disadvantage in being further from suitable storage sites, with the need for expensive pipeline construction. The Peterhead plan involves pumping the CO2 to the Shell-operated Goldeneye gas field using, as far as possible, existing pipeline infrastructure.

First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the new agreement as an ‘important step forward for the development of CCS in Scotland’ and said that it was important lessons were learned from the failure of the Longannet project.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “The Peterhead carbon capture proposal has a lot going for it. The fact that another energy company is now on board must confirm this scheme as the front runner for the government’s £1bn test project.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s chief executive Stan Blackley said that CCS should not be an excuse for developing new coal and gas-fired power, and should only be developed in order to be “retrofitted” to existing plants. Mr. Blackley’s comment is timely as today North Ayrshire Council threw out Ayrshire Power’s controversial plan for a  new coal fired plant with experimental carbon capture and storage technology at Hunterston.

Cameron Admits Longannet CCS Scheme Has Problems

David Cameron at PMQsAn exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions today:

Tom Greatrex

Mr. Speaker, given the importance of carbon capture and storage both as a way of helping reduce our carbon emissions and also as an exportable technology to help rebalance the economy will the prime minister now put his words into action and step in to ensure that the Longannet demonstration project goes ahead?


David Cameron:

What I can say to the honourable gentleman is that the funding we set aside for carbon capture and storage is still there. That funding will be made available. Clearly the Longannet scheme isn’t working in the way that they intended, but the money from the government – the support from the government – for this vital technology is there.


The Energy Secretary Chris Huhne confirmed later in the afternoon that the Longannet scheme was not going ahead. He said that  the length of pipeline needed for Longannet and the distance from reservoirs made the scheme unviable.


More than 20,000 say No to Hunterston

‘Clean Coal’ proposal receives a record number of objections.

The proposed new coal fired power station on the Ayrshire coast at Hunterston has attracted more formal objections than any other development in the history of the Scottish planning system, with over 20,000 people having now registered their opposition. A large proportion of the objections come from people living in North Ayrshire.

The proposed new Hunterston 'clean coal' power stationCarbon capture and storage technology, if  applied to all the emissions frm the new station, could theoretically ensure that up to 90% of CO2 emissions are captured instead of being released into the atmosphere. Howver, the plans for the start-up are much more modest with only 15% of the Carbon Dioxide (CO2 ) being removed – and it is not clear yet how even this negligible figure wouold be achieved.

Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, said: “I think these figures demonstrate the strength of public feeling against the building of a new Hunterston power station, and the level of local opposition is clear to see. We hope that the views of local people will be taken into account when North Ayrshire Council considers its position on the proposals over the next few weeks”.

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said: “The area has had enough uncertainty about energy development. The huge public opposition shows that this application should be turned down, especially as we don’t believe it will be built should it be given the go ahead. In order to make carbon capture on coal work, even ScottishPower would need over £1bn at Longannet, making it highly improbable Ayrshire Power will be able to build this unpopular station or find a buyer for the site.”

Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Given the huge number of people who have objected, local Councillors and Scottish Ministers would be foolish to ignore them. Scotland does not need another dirty coal-fired power station and the plans for this one should be consigned to the dustbin forthwith.”

More than 30ha of a coastal wildlife site used by tens of thousands of wintering water birds – the largest such site in Ayrshire – could be completely destroyed if the new power station is built.

Tim Cowen co-chair of Communities Opposed to New Coal at Hunterston (CONCH), added: “CONCH will be giving evidence to North Ayrshire Council at a pre-determination hearing on October 24. North Ayrshire Council will be meeting on November 9 to decide on whether or not to support Ayrshire Powers plans. If allowed to proceed, Ayrshire Powers plans will have a devastating impact on our health, environment and economy. It is vital that the Council put the interests of their constituents ahead of big polluting business. We are calling on councillors to give a strong signal to the Scottish Government and “Say no to dirty coal”.

North Ayrshire Council will hear views from objectors and the applicant on Monday 24 October at Cunninghame House, before taking a decision on their position on the application on Wednesday 9 November.


CONCH – Communities Opposed to New Coal at Hunterston


Is Scotland Conflicted On Coal?

New ‘clean coal’ for Hunterston but Cockenzie to be replaced by gas

Environmental groups have lost a legal challenge against plans for the proposed  £3bn coal-fired power station at Hunterston in Ayrshire, where Peel Energy  proposes using experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) to limit damaging carbon emissions –  although the current specification is only that this capability is applied to a quarter of its output initially. A  judicial review was raised after the Scottish government decided to include the planned facility as a National Development in the National Planning Framework, but  the judge has ruled that the consultation process undertaken by the Scottish government was  sufficient. Campaigners have  claimed the plant would harm wildlife and the environment and said thousands of people were opposed to it.

Cockenzie Power Station    © Chris Bell, CC BY-SA 2.0Meanwhile the 40-year-old coal plant at Cockenzie is due to close in 2015 and is to be replaced by a 1GW gas turbine plant.  This plant will be ‘carbon capture ready’ – whatever that means – and will also recycle some of the waste heat to be used in other processes.

The whole premise of the Hunterston plant is  that it will be a ‘clean coal’ installation, yet the technology for carbon capture and storage is no more than experimental at the moment, and  there is certainly a long way to go before it can be demonstrated as a practical economic large-scale technology.  Theoretically a quarter of the carbon from Hunterston will be captured from the start of the station’s operation, with the remaining 75% CCS capacity coming onstream some (unspecified) time later.

The new gas station at Cockenzie will de facto have  half the carbon emissions of the coal station per GW simply because it is burning gas instead of coal – and that is before the proposed carbon capture comes into play. Would it not make more sense to only build new gas stations until such time as CCS technology is ready and perfect it there?

Once the technology is shown to work reliably and safely on a large scale then surely that is the time to look at new coal plants? After all, the coal will still be in the ground – it isn’t going anywhere.


Just a day after this was written comes news that – the construction of a prototype carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Longannet – is on the verge of collapse. If this goes to the wall what then for Hunterston?


Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage

Flagship UK carbon capture project ‘close to collapse’