The Scottish Government has thrown its weight behind the troubled Longannet Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project after reports that a consortium of private partners led by Scottish Power is set to pull out.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing called on the UK government to confirm that funding would be provided to take the project forward, saying: “UK Ministers cannot stand by and allow this project to fall and lose another opportunity to develop this crucial new energy technology”.
“The CCS project at Longannet is of huge significance, not just to Scotland but to the rest of the UK and Europe, and I am alarmed by recent reports that the project is at risk. The First Minister spoke to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne last week to raise his concerns and to press for a speedy resolution to this important issue,” Ewing said.
A Conservative backbench MP with privileged knowledge of the project was reported as saying last week in the Guardian that the deal with private partners could collapse “within weeks”.
The coal-fired plant at Longannet would trial new technology whereby carbon emissions would be captured and buried under the North Sea. The Fife CCS project is seen as spearheading the development of the technology, which the government is seeking to trial at another six sites across the UK.
The UK Government has already pledged £1bn in subsidy for the project, but Scottish Power and its partners Shell and National Grid are reported to be calling for more public money. Sources at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) told the Guardian that regardless of the outcome of negotiations around Longannet, plans for at least three CCS sites would go forward regardless.
Ewing said: “While Longannet is ready to be one of the world’s leading CCS whole chain demonstrator project, the Treasury and DECC appear to disagree over the necessary funding – despite the whole project set to cost less than one tenth of this year’s estimated North Sea oil and gas revenues (£13.4bn).
“Following the failure of the UK Government to support the Peterhead CCS project four years ago, UK Ministers cannot stand by and allow this second project to fall and lose another opportunity to develop this crucial new energy technology.
“The uncertainty around the UK Government’s proposed reforms to the electricity market are already appearing to have the unfortunate consequences we predicted could happen. There is now doubt in the minds of investors of billions of pounds in new energy technologies, while the reforms are seen by many as a means of supporting new nuclear power stations south of the Border, the technology of the last century.
“No final decisions have been taken and I urge the UK Government to do all it can to save this project.”