Scotland has CCS capacity to process a century of CO2 output

A consortium of Scottish Government, industry and researchers have shown that rocks deep beneath the Moray Firth are capable of storing decades of CO2 output from Scotland’s power stations.

And the emerging Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) industry could create at least 13,000 new Scottish jobs by 2020.

These are key findings of the report, ‘Progressing Scotland’s CO2 storage opportunities’, which was unveiled today at a media launch hosted by Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) and the Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather MSP.

Detailed research calculates that rock, known as the Captain Sandstone, buried more than half a mile beneath the Moray Firth could store at least 15 years, and potentially a century’s worth of CO2 output from Scotland’s power industry.

Professor Eric Mackay from SCCS said “This is an exciting and landmark moment in the development of carbon capture and storage. The Captain Sandstone is just one of many rock formations filled with salt water in the central and northern North Sea.

“We have shown that this is a feasible site that could store massive amounts of CO2, helping the UK meet its targets for carbon emissions reduction. The future potential for this and other areas of the North Sea is immense.”

The SCCS research, funded by Scottish Government and a group of businesses within the energy sector, also showed that carbon capture and storage could create 13,000 jobs in Scotland by 2020, and another 14,000 elsewhere in the UK, spread across a wide range of skills. This would increase in subsequent years. Properly developed, the UK’s share of worldwide carbon capture and storage business could be worth more than £10 billion a year by around 2025.

Professor Mackay continued, “Our research indicates CO2 output captured from a fossil fuel-fired power station, like the existing plant at Longannet or Peterhead or any future capture projects such as at Hunterston, could be stored beneath the North Sea. The unique combination of government, industry and research capability provides Scotland with the opportunity to lead the way in the development of CCS. We look forward to further assessment of this and other parts of the North Sea to maximise the economic benefits.”

Today’s report builds on previous SCCS research which highlighted Scotland’s North Sea storage potential as being of European scale significance.

Energy Minister Jim Mather today welcomed the findings and the vote of confidence in Scotland’s R&D; expertise through the Scottish Funding Council’s £2 million funding for the SCCS, also announced today.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said: “Today’s research cements Scotland’s position as the number one location for CCS technology development and deployment in the world. CCS can create thousands of new low carbon jobs in Scotland and we must move quickly to seize the full economic and environmental opportunities.

“We already know the North Sea has an amazing carbon storage potential – the largest offshore storage capacity in Europe – offering up the prospect of storage of Scotland’s industrial emissions generated for the next 200 years. Today’s report now shows the Captain Sandstone, widespread under the Moray Firth, could store up to a century’s worth of carbon from Scotland’s major power plants.

“The research is a great example of the continued commitment of government, industry and academia coming together as a partnership to deliver new insights on the potential for carbon capture and storage projects. The new 2 million pounds funding from the Scottish Funding Council for the SCCS is extremely welcome and will build on that academic expertise in the areas of research, policy and technical expertise.

“We now need the UK Government to recognise the Scottish potential and award a CCS demonstrator project to Longannet, the outstanding contender left in the UK competition.”

Scotland’s potentially massive offshore CO2 storage capacity is of European significance. The European Union has specified that three of the eight CCS demonstrator plants that it will fund under its multi-billion euro demonstrator programme must inject into saline aquifers. The results from this study place Scotland in a strong position to secure future EU support for more detailed assessment of CO2 storage in saline aquifers.

But Green Party MSPs claim the CCS technology remains unproven and should only be considered an interim measure to reduce emissions from existing coal, oil and gas plants ahead of their early decommissioning.

They say research published last year concludes that “geologic sequestration of CO2 [is] a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of CO2 emissions” and warn coal remains exceptionally dirty to extract, with SNP Ministers having presided over a substantial increase in opencast extraction since 2007, while oil and gas prices will continue to rise over the longer term as reserves run down.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: “Carbon capture and storage remains an unproven technology, yet to be demonstrated anywhere in the world, and research published last year suggests it “cannot be made feasible at any cost”. With such question marks over the whole idea, SNP Ministers should not be predicting job numbers drawn up on the back of a fag packet. Scotland’s renewable potential can meet our power needs almost six times over, and if we had a Government prepared to commit to that task, we could already be exporting the surplus to our neighbours. Large-scale carbon capture, even if it eventually works, risks becoming a poor excuse to keep dirty power plants running longer.

“By all means let’s continue the research to see if some of the pollution from existing plants can be captured, but above all we must not allow the prospect of CCS be used to justify new coal power stations, as the SNP Government has tried to do. Ministers would be well advised to get behind renewables instead. We know they work, we know they’re clean, and we know they’ll bring real jobs for the long term.”

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