Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) has welcomed the joint announcement by UK and Scottish governments, to provide £4.2m research evaluation support for the Caledonia Clean Energy Project.

If constructed, this would be one of the cleanest fossil fuel power plants in the world.

The government funds are not to start construction of the plant, but to make further research on engineering investigations and regulatory requirements. This is important because it puts this pioneering project at the forefront when building a new generation of very low emission fossil fuel power plants in the UK.

The power plant developer is Summit Power of Seattle, which plans to construct a new electricity generation power plant close to the Grangemouth petrochemical complex in central Scotland. This can take advantage of the existing industrial infrastructure, the electricity supply connections, and the pipelines to export carbon dioxide emissions to safe and secure storage.

Why is this important?

This power plant would follow an existing design that has already been approved in Texas by USA regulatory authorities. There are four groundbreaking aspects to this proposal:

1) The power plant will be fitted with 100% carbon capture and storage (CCS) from its inception. Emissions will be 90% less than comparable electricity generation by coal, and just one quarter of emissions by comparable gas-fuelled generation without CCS.

2) This power plant will supply up to 570 MW of electricity, which provides an important regional capacity into the future for the Scottish region of the UK, to balance voltage and provide complimentary power to renewable generation. There is currently much discussion about reduced security of electricity supply in Scotland, and consequently in Northern Ireland, with the forecast closure of Longannet which has provided secure base load power since the 1970s.

3) This type of industrial facility is not just a power plant. It is like a chemical refinery for coal and has the capacity to produce a variety of products including hydrogen to feed into high value petro-chemical processes; steam and heat which could provide cleaner alternatives for industrial use; the ability to use some of the carbon dioxide wastes to make bulk chemicals such as urea fertiliser. This diversity of products can greatly reduce the cost of low-carbon electricity produced, and also strengthens the commercial resilience of this petrochemical complex in central Scotland, one of the largest in the UK, and supporting about 2,000 high-quality direct jobs. Low-carbon electricity will also be produced, to feed into the grid supplying Scotland and the UK.

4) Siting this facility in central Scotland provides unique access to a pipeline that can transport carbon dioxide wastes directly to coastal export facilities at St Fergus in north-east Scotland. This pipeline was previously evaluated for the Longannet CCS project, and is likely to provide the lowest cost connection anywhere in the UK, to secure carbon dioxide storage already established deep beneath the North Sea.

Prof. Stuart Haszeldine, Director of SCCS said, “This is a really important step forward by UK and Scottish governments to support development of innovative low-carbon projects at very large scale. During the past 10 years we have seen many projects fall away because of perceived government disinterest. This type of support is essential if the UK is to encourage a series of low-carbon power projects, to follow on from Peterhead – Goldeneye in Scotland, and from White Rose in Yorkshire.”

“This Grangemouth project can make important connections between protecting employment in the high-value chemical industry, and make another big step towards low-carbon electricity and heat in the UK, and continue development of the emerging carbon dioxide storage industry which will use and enhance offshore skills and employment.”

“It is important to realise that this is the start of the long trail. Even if these investigations are successful, electricity and chemicals will not be delivered until 2021 at the earliest.”