Scotland’s energy transition: concerns over “dangerous distraction” of carbon capture and storage

Friends of the Earth Scotland said that the ambition to make Peterhead power station greener was just delaying its “inevitable closure”. Greig Cameron discusses latest developments in an article on The Times website.


Carbon capture ‘just delays pulling plug’ on gas plant

Plans to capture carbon emissions from what has been called Scotland’s most polluting industrial site have been criticised by environmental campaigners.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said that the ambition to make Peterhead power station greener was just delaying its “inevitable closure”.

The gas-fired power station in Aberdeenshire is the last in Scotland to run on fossil fuels.

SSE, the utility and infrastructure investor that owns the power station, is partnering with the energy group Equinor to explore the use of carbon capture and storage as part of a redevelopment project.

Figures published last year by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency showed that the Peterhead facility emitted 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018. That was more than Petroineos’s Grangemouth and ExxonMobil’s Mossmorran plant.

The aim is for the carbon emissions generated at Peterhead to be transferred to depleted oil and gas fields in the North Sea and stored there. Once carbon dioxide has been captured it can be pressurised and turned into a liquid-like form that can be injected into rocks under the earth’s surface.

SSE and Equinor said they would work with a separate project, known as Acorn and based at the St Fergus Gas Terminal, which is planning to re-use pipelines to move the carbon offshore.

Previous attempts to build carbon capture and storage networks in the UK have floundered despite the support of regimes at Holyrood and Westminster.

Proponents suggest that it could give new life to North Sea infrastructure and position Britain as a hub for the technology. Critics feel the method does not go far enough in actually reducing carbon emissions.

Jess Cowell, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, 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 carbon capture and storage, which might not deliver.

“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.

Equinor and SSE plan to create a gas-fired power station at Peterhead that would be fitted with technology to remove carbon dioxide from its emissions. They believe that this could cut up to 1.5 million tonnes each year.

However, the project is still in its early stages and the companies noted that a final investment decision would depend on the development of business models for carbon capture and the building of infrastructure needed to carry it out.

They indicated if those elements came to fruition then the new power station could be operating in 2026.

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