Plans for what could be one of the UK’s first power stations equipped with carbon capture technology were announced today.
The Peterhead 900MW gas-fired power station in Aberdeenshire would capture up to 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, according to its partners, SSE Thermal and Equinor.
But the campaign group, Friends of the Earth Scotland, described carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a “distraction” from proven solutions such as renewables. It said the announcement was an attempt to delay closure of the power station.
Peterhead is Scotland’s only major thermal electricity generating station and ranked as the top Scottish climate polluter in 2018 and 2019.
Its CO2 releases alone increased Scotland’s emissions by 3% from 2017-2018. In 2019, it released 1.6 million tonnes. Environmental campaigners have repeatedly called for Peterhead’s closure.
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s climate campaigner, Jess Cowell, said:
“This proposal is an attempt to use the illusory promise of carbon capture to delay the inevitable closure of the fossil fuelled power station at Peterhead.
“Scotland’s improved targets for emissions reductions by 2030 mean there is an urgent need to prioritise proven solutions such as renewables and electrification rather than backing the dangerous distraction of CCS which might not deliver.
“Energy giants like SSE should be involving their workers and communities affected in planning for a proper transition away from fossil fuelled energy production in the North East.
“Carbon Capture will only prolong the life of the oil and gas industry at exactly the time when we should be rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels.”
Friends of the Earth said CCS could not achieve the rapid cuts in CO2 emissions needed up to 2030. Scotland would miss its climate targets if it relied on the technology, it said:
“Fossil fuel-based Carbon Capture and Storage is not capable of operating with zero emissions. During the initial deployment of CCS in the power sector, capture rates are often around 65%, gradually building to 90% capture only after several years of operations.
But SSE said in a statement this morning:
“By capturing up to 1.5 million tonnes (MT) of CO2 each year, the new station alone would achieve 15% of the UK Government’s target to capture 10MT of CO2 annually by 2030.”
“Peterhead CCS Power Station, as a new decarbonised power station at the site, would continue to provide this essential flexible and efficient power in a net zero world.”
SSE said the location on Scotland’s east coast gave the Peterhead site access to transport and storage infrastructure being developed at the Acorn Project. This aims to store CO2 about 100km offshore in rocks below the North Sea.
Peterhead and the Acorn Project both won funding from the government’s industrial decarbonisation challenge fund in March.
SSE said final decisions would depend “on the progress of the necessary business models and associated infrastructure”. But it said the new station could come online in 2026.
The energy minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said:
“Carbon capture storage technology is one of the most exciting and innovative ways that we’re looking to tackle climate change, and today’s announcement marks a significant step towards a greener, more sustainable future for Scotland and the whole UK.
“Once up and running, CO2 emissions saved through this station alone will be the equivalent of taking 60 million cars off the road every year.
“Developing and applying this technology in Scotland will be a key element in the energy transition whilst creating a skills base and jobs on the ground that will endure and grow for decades to come.”