The billion-pound question
In 2007, the UK government launched a competition to stimulate development of CCS, with a prize of about £1 billion to help fund a commercial-scale post-combustion demonstration project and get it up and running by 2014. …
In 2007, the UK government launched a competition to stimulate development of CCS, with a prize of about £1 billion to help fund a commercial-scale post-combustion demonstration project and get it up and running by 2014. This emphasis on post-combustion meant that one plan for a novel pre-combustion solution in Scotland, developed by BP, Conoco-Phillips, Shell and Scottish Southern Energy, was withdrawn from the contest before it had even begun. The idea was to generate 350MW of carbon-free electricity (enough to power 250,000 homes) at the Peterhead power station in north-east Scotland, using hydrogen extracted from natural gas, then transporting the carbon dioxide via an existing pipeline to inject it in the Miller Field, for long-term geological storage 240km offshore in the North Sea.
Approximately 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would have been stored in the oil field, and according to a media release at the time: “The injection of carbon dioxide into the reservoir could increase the amount of oil extracted from the field, potentially allowing the production of up to 40 million additional barrels of oil and extending the life of the field by 15 to 20 years.”
According to Professor Stuart Haszeldine, the decision not to go ahead with the project was a missed opportunity for CCS in general and a setback for pre-combustion in particular. “It would have enhanced oil recovery in the North Sea and got the oil companies involved from the start – to kick-start the CCS industry in Scotland. The Peterhead project could have been a world leader, operational by 2009, if the government had been ready for commercialisation.”
In March, the UK government announced the outcome of the initial phase of the competition to build the first demonstrator of carbon capture and storage. Scottish Power, with the planned retrofit of Longannet, and E.ON, with the new coal-fired power plant at Kingsnorth, have been selected to carry out feed studies to develop the process. The 2014 deadline is now very close and Brandani believes that much work still needs to be done in order to develop the full CCS chain, from capture to storage and long-term monitoring. “It is an exciting time and with the support of the UK and Scottish governments, there is an immediate opportunity for the University of Edinburgh to become an international centre of excellence in CCS, linking industry and academia,” he says.