Yorkshire is set to lead the world in carbon capturing – generating hundreds of millions of pounds for the region and reversing its position as one of Britain's biggest polluters, officials claimed yesterday.
Regional Development Agency Yorkshire Forward will tomorrow launch the UK's biggest ever study into the emerging technology – storing global warming-causing emissions underground – in an attempt to capture 100m of Government funding.
If the cash bid is successful, the region will be in pole position to build the world's first large-scale carbon capture project, reusing mines deep underground or pumping it out to sea.
It will see Yorkshire's three major coal-fired power stations – Drax, Ferrybridge and Eggborough – pioneering the production of clean coal rather than pumping greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Once the infrastructure is in place it is expected that other regions in the UK, and many European countries, will then clamour to pay Yorkshire to take carbon off their hands.
Yorkshire Forward believes it is at a far more advanced stage than others involved in the race for Government funding, signing up key partners from the energy sector including BP, Shell, E.ON, Drax and Scottish and Southern Energy and winning the backing of the TUC.
If successful, officials say it will bring hundreds of millions of pounds into the economy and will – at a stroke – reduce the vast amounts of carbon being emitted from the region.
Mike Smith, head of sustainable development at Yorkshire Forward, said: "We have formed the UK's largest partnership into looking at carbon capture and storage.
"We've taken a different approach to everyone else. There are lots of different projects across the country but we're the only region that said let's all come together and look at a project that will benefit all of us, including the three power stations in Yorkshire.
"I really do feel confident that we will win this, that something will happen here. We've got all the major power generators that matter in this region signed up, and will be able to drastically reduce our carbon emissions."
Mr Smith said that with carbon currently trading at E20 per tonne of CO2 emitted, there is great potential to bring hundreds of millions of pounds into the economy from other regions in the UK.
The European Union has introduced a carbon credit scheme, where regions are set a level of carbon they are allowed to emit and are forced to buy credits if they exceed that limit. If Yorkshire gets the storage scheme it will be able to trade space for credits, generating huge profits.
Mr Smith said the project's steering group will tomorrow "set the ball rolling" on the largest technical study in the UK into carbon capture.
"It will look at sources of carbon, different types of carbon capture, the infrastructure needed to move the carbon, the pumping facility and the storage," he said.
Each of the partners has contributed to the 100,000 cost of the study, and if chosen the Government's 100m will form a sizable chunk of the projected 250m building costs.
Nick Pontone, director of policy at Yorkshire and Humber Chambers of Commerce, said: "If we can get this right in the region it will not just contribute to recycling our carbon but that of others as well.
"If we can get ourselves to the forefront of this agenda there are great opportunities for business-growth in the region. At the scale we're talking, it is something only Yorkshire Forward can lead on, and the fact that they are is a very positive development."
Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which runs the Ferrybridge plant, said: "The ability to deploy technology to 'de-carbonise' fuel to provide low-emissions generation, while ensuring we are still able to use coal reserves as primary fuel sources, would be of enormous value.
"Although it is early days as far as far as this development is concerned, I believe that cleaner coal represents a very exciting opportunity for SSE and for the UK as a whole."