News that carbon capture and storage technology could herald a new era of financial prosperity for the North Sea and the communities that rely on it was widely welcomed last night.
Mike Tholen, economics director with industry body Oil and Gas UK, said the study announced by First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday demonstrated the potential and the challenges for carbon capture and storage (CSS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in Scottish waters.
“It offers a tantalising prospect for Scotland’s oil and gas supply chain to become a leader in these technologies,” he said.
“The crucial question for both CCS and EOR will be the economics. As is recognised in the report, each can help the other but much will need to happen to make either or both economic, most notably with the prices of oil and CO2, both of which are currently much lower than required.”
Niall Stuart, spokesman for Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), said the study was a crucial step that could have massive benefits for Scotland.
“The full conversion of Longannet Power Station alone could potentially deliver an investment of some £4billion to Scottish-based businesses in the energy sector,” he said.
However, Patrick Harvie, leader of the Green Party in the Scottish Parliament, criticised the first minister for his “failure to admit” that carbon capture on that scale existed only on the drawing board.
He said: “It may make an important contribution one day, but it’s a disgrace that Scottish ministers have already given their backing to new coal-fired power stations before carbon capture and storage has been demonstrated anywhere in the world.”
Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Liam McArthur said: “Ministers must ensure that whatever potential Scotland has for developing carbon capture does not come at the expense of investment in clean, green, renewable energy.”
Conservative shadow minister for the environment Nanette Milne said: “Scotland is uniquely placed to benefit from the offshore storage capacity which exists to develop carbon capture and storage, especially within the oil and gas sector.”
Scottish Labour energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald added: “Alex Salmond and SNP ministers need to back Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, who are leading Europe on CCS, but they also need to recognise there is a long way to go before we can be certain CCS is technically and commercially viable.”
Dan Barlow, head of policy at environmental group WWF Scotland, said Scotland was “ideally placed” to develop the technology.
“Whilst carbon capture is no silver bullet, it has the potential to play an important role in the global effort to cut carbon emissions,” he said.