Election no major hurdle for CCS project

Peter Emery at the new Drax biomass facility.
Peter Emery at the new Drax biomass facility.
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THE man behind Yorkshire’s proposed “clean coal” power station says he does not see next year’s general election as a major hurdle for the project and is confident of cross-party support to see it through.

Peter Emery, director of Capture Power, the consortium behind the White Rose power project at Drax in North Yorkshire, said the £1.6bn scheme to siphon off harmful CO2 emissions and bury them safely under the North Sea would help the Government develop its much-needed low carbon power industry and provide value for money.

Mr Emery was speaking at The Regional Benefits of CCS conference in Leeds yesterday ahead of Tuesday’s decision by the European Commission on whether to support the project with 300m euros from its carbon capture and storage (CCS) funding competition.

Addressing the event, organised by the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) and the TUC, Mr Emery said: “I think the Government realises two things. It’s got a problem with developing a low carbon power industry so it needs flexible power generation.

“In addition, the economics have become particularly important. I think this represents really good value for money.”

The final investment decision will be made at the end of 2015 after the next election. “It’s a risk to a certain extent, although one of the attractions to this project is there is a lot of cross-party consensus that sees this as a good thing so we don’t necessarily see the next election as a major hurdle,” Mr Emery said.

The White Rose power project is the sole entrant in the European Commission’s funding competition - but it will still need support from Drax shareholders and the Government, which has set aside £1bn for two CCS projects, to go ahead. The remainder of the money will come from bank debt. “All three sources of finance will be critical to the project,” said Mr Emery.

If approved, the new 425MW power station at Drax’s existing site near Selby would be the first power station in the country to bury its carbon emissions underground.

Mr Emery said: “The key is to get the technology right and make sure there’s a proper commercial framework in place that will stand the test of time. If we get there then these projects will happen. The reason why Drax is the only project left standing in the competition is that these issues have not been addressed across Europe.”

Drax’s project would see a large underground pipeline carry CO2 from its site at Selby right across Yorkshire and out into the North Sea.

Regional planners want it to become the first part of a much wider CCS pipeline network that could incorporate all the region’s heavy polluters.

Yorkshire MEP Linda McAvan said the region needed a collective voice to promote the work it is doing. “We need to market our region as somewhere where investment and innovation in green technologies is happening and then we’ll get more of it,” she said.

The potential importance of the CCS industry to the UK has been re-emphasised with a report, funded by the CCSA and the TUC, which concluded investing in CCS would save nearly £100 from people’s energy bills, while also creating thousands of jobs and protecting key industries.

Luke Warren, chief executive of the CCSA, said: “Decisions taken by this Government and the next government will determine whether or not the UK has the ability to utilise CCS at scale by 2030 or whether we close the door to CCS being an option.”

Paul Nowak, TUC assistant general secretary, added: “We think CCS is a vital component of the future for UK coal - one that would allow coal to play an important role as part of a balanced energy portfolio.”