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UK's first carbon capture project could be operational by mid-2020s

Government plans unveiled today at a world-first summit in Edinburgh outline how the UK’s first carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) project could be up and running from the mid-2020s – three years after £1bn efforts to develop the technology were axed.

Ministers have announced an investment of £20m to support the construction of CCUS across industrial sites in the UK as part of a wider £45m fund. The move is part of an action plan to tackle emissions and a commitment to develop the technology, which stops greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

Alongside the proposal is an extra cash injection of £175,000 into the Project Acorn initiative in St Fergus, Scotland which is projected to capture about 200,000 tonnes of CO2 from the St Fergus Gas Terminal near Peterhead and transport it for storage to one of three depleted gas fields using existing pipelines.

This is despite the fact that back in 2015, the UK government decided to controversially drop a £1bn competition to develop carbon capture with Peterhead power station and the White Rose scheme in North Yorkshire in the running to win the contract.

Today's summit in the Scottish capital is being jointly hosted by the UK government and International Energy Agency (IEA) with the new action plan set to be unveiled to an audience of more than 50 energy ministers and senior executives from across the nascent CCUS sector.

Speaking ahead of the summit Perry said the UK was "setting a world-leading ambition for developing and deploying carbon capture and storage technology to cut emissions".

"It shows how determined all countries are to unlock the potential of this game-changing technology that representatives from across the globe are gathered here today in Edinburgh," she added. "The time is now to seize this challenge to tackle climate change while kick starting an entirely new industry."

The announced plan commits the UK to:

  • Next year set out how to enable the UK’s first CCUS facility
  • Invest £20 million in supporting construction of CCUS technologies at industrial sites across the UK, as part of £45 million commitment to innovation
  • Invest up to £315 million in decarbonising industry, including the potential to use CCUS

The UK is said to already be a “world-leader in carbon capture”, and to date has invested £1.3 million to progress industrial carbon capture in Teesside, according to officials. As well as boosting local supply chains and creating good jobs, carbon capture will also explore what can be done with existing oil and gas infrastructure.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has welcomed proposals but believes recommendations need to be aligned with a large-scale trial of hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas if climate change targets are to be realised.

A spokesman for the NIC said: “We’re pleased to see a commitment from ministers to invest in carbon capture and storage, and to examine how this new technology could be applied to industrial sites and existing oil and gas infrastructure. As well as these, we’d like to see the plan aligned with our recommendation to conduct a large-scale trial to explore manufacturing hydrogen with carbon capture and storage in the early 2020s, to test the viability of using this as an alternative to natural gas for the UK’s heating supply.”

Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, responded by saying that while the government is heading in the right direction with funding, the monetary contributions were still “underwhelming” and action is too slow.

She said: “The UK is well-placed to lead the world in the development of carbon capture and storage technologies, which are considered critical for decarbonising our whole energy system. Deployment of demonstration plants and low carbon industrial clusters should form a central part of our industrial strategy. The renewed focus on CCUS, is welcome, but planning should be converted into action soon.”