A FULL-CHAIN CCS project planned for North East Scotland has been granted EU funding to finance its feasibility studies, promising a new chapter for UK CCS following a series of false starts.
The Acorn project – named after its intention to seed a regional CCS cluster – would use existing infrastructure to transport and store CO2 emissions from the St Fergus gas terminal in Aberdeenshire. The terminal already separates CO2 from natural gas as part of ongoing gas sweetening operations but presently vents the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The plan for Acorn is to instead transport St Fergus’ separated CO2 through redundant oil and gas pipelines – which developers say are currently “under threat” of being decommissioned – and storing it in rocks beneath the North Sea.
Announcing EU support for this year and next, project developer Pale Blue Dot said Acorn represents an exciting step forwards for CCS in the UK, especially after several false starts over recent years.
“Despite considerable effort, the UK has struggled to get carbon capture and storage (CCS) started,” Pale Blue Dot said in a statement. “The UK government has run two competitions to select a project but none have made it to construction. The scale of the proposed projects, with capital costs over £1bn, in a new market have prevented public and private sector agreement being reached.”
Pale Blue Dot has argued that reusing existing infrastructure will both reduce project costs and makes best use of old facilities. Furthermore, it would demonstrate the commercial and regulatory aspects of CCS project development including the commercial aspects of transferring oil and gas infrastructure for use in CCS; the implementation of storage permits; and the development of project funding and risk allocation.
The longer-term vision is that a regional CCS hub will grow from Acorn. In the future, additional large-scale regional CO2 sources such as the Peterhead power station could be connected to the network using both new pipelines and existing ones. This could include the Feeder 10 pipeline that would gather emissions from sites in the industrial central belt of Scotland. The project could also see Scotland serve as a terminal for other countries emissions, with CO2 shipped in from Europe to Peterhead Harbour and then transported offshore for storage in the UK basin.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine, director of the Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS), said: “Funding for the Acorn CCS project is an important first step towards decarbonising industry in Scotland as part of the UK’s overall efforts. Several years of work by [the project’s developers] have confirmed the benefits of reusing legacy engineering equipment, pipelines and well-understood geological storage.
“In all of Europe, north-east Scotland is the location where CCS can be built most rapidly, with low-cost CO2 transport and very secure storage sites. Acorn also lights a path to sustainable offshore engineering and employment for many decades into the future. Becoming a careful early mover in this new industry can help us win a place in the business of CO2 storage for the UK and mainland Europe.”
Pale Blue Dot has not disclosed the value of the funding. It said on the current schedule, the project would begin operations as early as 2022 and capture around 200,000 t/y of CO2.
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