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Government relaunches £1bn CCS technology competition

The UK government is relaunching its £1bn competition to support the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced today that the scheme would consider technologies to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from gas as well as coal power plants, unlike the previous contest, which collapsed last year.

The competition has also been opened to pre-combustion projects that split natural gas or gasified coal into CO2 and hydrogen, as well as post-combustion technologies that involve trapping CO2 after the fossil fuel has been burnt.

A DECC spokesperson told The Engineer that the government would distribute the £1bn capital funding based on the best proposals put forward by industry, meaning it could be split between several projects or go towards shared infrastructure.

DECC has also announced its first UK CCS Roadmap, laying out plans for £125m of further funding for research and development, including a new UK CCS research centre and electricity market reforms to drive investment in CCS.

Energy secretary Ed Davey said the offer was one of the best anywhere in the world and a CCS industry could potentially support around 100,000 UK jobs by 2030.

‘What we are looking to achieve, in partnership with industry, is a new, world-leading CCS industry, rather than just simply projects in isolation… The CCS industry could be worth £6.5bn a year to the UK economy by late next decade as we export UK expertise and products,’ he said.

Most entrants to DECC’s previous competition pulled out, citing economic reasons, and the government eventually decided to close the scheme after the final remaining project, designed for Scottish Power’s Longannet coal plant, was deemed too costly.

The original contest was limited to post-combustion technology that could be retrofitted to coal plants — partly so it could be exported to big coal-burning countries such as China — but this was increasingly seen as inefficient and unsuitable given the UK’s shrinking coal use.

Qualifying projects must include both a Britain-based power plant and capture facility and an offshore storage element, or have the potential to include both parts in the future, and be operational by 2020.

Jeff Chapman, chief executive officer of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, said: ‘We welcome this announcement; it creates an opportunity for the UK to take a leading role in world markets while cost effectively reducing emissions, creating employment and generating prosperity.’

The new CCS research centre will be funded by £3m from DECC and £10m from the EPSRC. It will include pilot-scale advanced testing facilities in Yorkshire and a mobile testing unit allowing trials on real power station flue gases.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Dear Dr Williams,

    If you were building a plant which removed very large quantities of Oxygen from the atmosphere, would you think it reasonable if a member of the public tried to take legal action against Imperial College for reckless endangerment? Of course we know you are not building a plant to remove Oxygen from the atmosphere, (power-stations can do that well enough), but you are building a plant to remove very large quantities of CO2 form the atmosphere.  But doesn't this amount to the same thing? Since the only source of elemental oxygen available to air-breathing animals is provided by plant growth and this same plant growth requires large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, any reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere must reduce the amount of oxygen being produced, to the point where there is not enough CO2 left in the atmosphere for plants to grow. Plants gradually wither and die from lack of CO2 in a closed greenhouse. The danger is that no-one would notice if CO2 disappeared from the atmosphere altogether but plants would.

    The chemical formula 6CO2 + 6H2O = light energy ===> C6 H12 O6 + O2 shows that every molecule of biomass created, captures 6 molecules of CO2 from the atmosphere. This represents a truly colossal amount of CO2 being sequestered from the atmosphere to produce the gigatons of plant growth taking place every year.

    Conversely, the chemical formula: C6 H10 O5 + 6O2 ===> 6CO2 + 5H2O + Heat shows that the combustion of biomass, either by burning, respiration or decomposition, reverses this biological process and puts back a proportion of the sequestrated CO2 back into the atmosphere. But only a proportion.

    Engineers need to be confident that the proportion of carbon-dioxide being released into the atmosphere as a result of combustion, respiration and decomposition has a mass greater than the CO2 being removed from the atmosphere by all phototropic and organic processes taking place across the face of the Earth. Without this certainty, trying to remove the already diminished gas which alone is responsible for producing the oxygen we breath, would be criminally negligent.

    In fact, phototropic processes always capture more CO2 than it is able to return to the atmosphere and continues to do so. This is because a high proportion of the CO2 removed from the atmosphere by these processes is locked up permanently in the form of Calcium Carbonate (Ocean sediments), top-soils, Peat-bogs and land-fill. This is why there is such a large amount of Oxygen in the atmosphere as opposed to the minute quantities of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.

    Best wishes

    Justin Gudgeon

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