Aberdeen energy conference will renew carbon capture debate

By staff writers
January 27, 2015

An ambitious roll-out of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology in Scotland would generate a large number of jobs, create a market worth £15-35 billion by 2030, and assist in major environmental targets, says the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) in association with trade unionists and academics.

A seminar at the University of Aberdeen on Tuesday 27 January 2015 is focusing on the next steps to ensure that Scotland "makes the most of opportunities" highlighted in the report The Economic Benefits of CCS in the UK.

But not everyone is convinced. Friends of the Earth Europe, in a paper on 'False Solutions for 2030', looking at tackling climate change, said: "Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not a viable alternative. CCS is a 20th century concept, designed for cheap and plentiful fossil fuels. And because extra energy is needed to capture, transport and store CO2, CCS increases reliance on fossil fuels.

"It is a hot topic for big energy companies because it represents the hope that they can keep alive the current energy model. Rather than being a solution, it risks perpetuating the problem. The fundamental fact is that we have to make the transition to an energy system which does not rely on fossil fuels."

At the seminar in Aberdeen, three is, however, keenness to press ahead. Key claims from the CCSA report include:

* CCS can play a vital role in helping the UK meet its statutory target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. It has been estimated that without CCS, the cost of meeting this target will rise by £30-40 billion per year.

* Inclusion of CCS in the mix of low-carbon technologies would result in a 15 per cent reduction in wholesale electricity prices – leading to an average cut in household bills of £82 a year.

* Each new-build CCS power plant would generate between 1,000 and 2,500 jobs in construction, with a further 200-300 jobs in operation, maintenance and the associated supply chain.

CCS, its proponents claim, could help the UK to retain existing industries, such as coal and gas power generation, and support vital energy-intensive industries (such as chemicals, steel and cement manufacture) which employ 800,000 people directly and in supply chains.

Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady commented: “Carbon capture storage technology offers a way to meet our environmental targets, while creating thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs and transforming regional economies.

“This is a great opportunity to re-invigorate our manufacturing sector and bring new research and development, design and construction jobs to areas like Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland. But without stronger government backing, the UK risks losing its competitive advantage, and all the jobs and economic activity that CCS could bring.”

The North East of Scotland has been identified as one of the best places in Europe to develop CCS. The Shell and SSE Peterhead CCS project in Aberdeen promises to deliver a world first; a full-scale CCS project at a gas-fired power station. There are also many other CCS projects in Scotland which could be in operation by the end of the decade.

CCSA Chief Executive Dr Luke Warren said: “This report definitively shows that the successful deployment of CCS has wider benefits for the UK economy. Respected international and UK organisations agree that without CCS in the mix, costs of meeting climate change targets will rise significantly. We have gone further in this report to show that the cost savings from CCS have a real impact on the average UK household – increasing their disposable income and reducing the risk of fuel poverty.”

The University of Aberdeen event, chaired by Colin Parker, Chief Executive of the Aberdeen Harbour Board, will bring together representatives from across government, industry, academia and NGOs to set out the CCS prize in Scotland.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will open proceedings with a key note address. Speakers including representatives from Shell, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) and the Scottish TUC (STUC) will highlight how Scotland is well placed to reap the significant benefits of a newly emerging global CCS industry.

The Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) exists to represent the interests of its members in promoting the business of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The Association works to raise awareness, both in the UK and internationally, of the benefits of CCS as a viable climate change mitigation option.

In Scotland the governing Scottish National Party has been keen on carbon capture and storage for some time, but the Scottish Greens have been more sceptical, seeing it as 'unproven' and a foil for continued carbon dependency.

"With carbon capture and storage, coal might have a continued role to play in the short term. But we don’t yet know whether CCS is technically feasible or commercially viable, and it’s far too much of a gamble", the energy policy section on their website declares.

The debate is likely to continue.

The Economic Benefits of CCS in the UK is a summary of a longer study entitled A UK Vision for Carbon Capture and Storage.

* The summary report and the longer study can be found here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document) www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/carboncapturebenefits.pdf and at www.ccsassociation.org/press-centre/reports-and-publications/

* Friends of the Earth Europe: http://www.foeeurope.org/2030-false-solutions

* More on climate change from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/climatechange

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