Carbon capture

Shell and National Grid have joined Scottish Power’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) consortium, which aims to develop Britain’s first commercial CCS system at Longannet coal-fired power station by 2014.

The companies join Norwegian CO2 removal specialists Aker Clean Carbon in the consortium.

A prototype CCS system has already been put into operation at Longannet in Fife, Scotland.

Developed by Aker Clean Carbon, the prototype is said to be an exact, small-scale replica of a full-scale carbon-capture plant, allowing Scottish Power to test the chemistry involved in capturing CO2 from power station flue gases.

The prototype unit, which became operational in May 2009, weighs 30 tonnes and covers an area of 85m2. It will be able to process 1,000m3 of exhaust gas per hour from Longannet.

Shell is already taking part in demonstration projects to capture and geologically store CO2. National Grid is the owner and operator of the UK’s gas-pipeline system and has expertise in high-pressure pipelines.

‘For the consortium the two companies represent a ‘perfect fit’ as it strives to reduce CO2 emissions by 90 per cent from its power plant at Longannet,’ said Nick Horler, Scottish Power’s chief executive. ‘For Scottish Power, the fact that a company of the size and scope of Shell has chosen to join our Carbon-Capture consortium is a considerable coup and a significant boost to our bid.

‘I believe the inclusion of National Grid as a non-exclusive partner into the consortium is an indication of how far our plans have advanced, as we have now reached a stage where it’s right to involve the UK’s leading pipeline operator.’

CCS was given a boost in the Spring when Alistair Darling, chancellor of the exchequer, announced in his April budget that Britain would fund up to four CCS projects. The consortium is in the process of submitting a bid for government funding.

’Shell believes CCS is a technology that will be vital to tackling climate change and we believe that at this stage it is essential that we ‘learn by doing’ in order to reduce costs, accelerate technology and ultimately make CCS commercially viable,’ said John Gallagher, Shell’s technical vice president.

‘However, we do not underestimate the challenges that lie between a successful project and us. We will have to surmount significant technical and economic hurdles by working together across industry, government and society to find solutions that work.’

Separately, Shell said it will build a hydrodesulphurisation plant at its Pernis Refinery in the Netherlands. The plant, expected to come on stream in the second half of 2011, will increase cleaner-burning, low-sulphur fuels production at the 400,000-barrels-per-day refinery.