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.