Pioneering plans for a multimillion-pound green energy scheme in the north-east were unveiled yesterday.
Energy giant Shell has teamed up with Scottish and Southern Energy to create the world’s first full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Peterhead Power Station.
The team behind the much-heralded proposal, which was first mooted almost a decade ago, believe it could be a “global landmark” for Aberdeenshire and will help Scotland lead the way on climate change technology.
At the launch of a month-long public consultation exercise, project leaders said the scheme could be a major shot in the arm for the traditional oil and gas industry, significantly lengthening its lifespan.
It is also expected to bolster the north-east economy with hundreds of jobs during the two to three year construction phase. About 10million tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide emissions would be captured at the Aberdeenshire power plant, piped 60 miles offshore to the depleted Goldeneye gas reservoir and stored 1.5 miles under the floor of the North Sea.
Once proven, it is hoped CCS will clean up the country’s power sector and become a key weapon in the battle against climate change, with the technology exported across the world.
Residents in Boddam, the nearest settlement to the Peterhead power plant, were given the first look at the scheme at the village public hall yesterday. It was the first date of a six-stop tour of the north-east corner.
A series of information boards installed around the venue highlighted the virtues of carbon capture and how the new facility could be up and running by the end of the decade. Visitors also got the chance to quiz members of the project team.
Feedback from the public sessions will be used when forming a planning application, likely to be lodged with the local authority in about a year’s time.
The bid will be divided into two sections, on and offshore. The offshore plan will be much the same as a previous proposal for the Goldeneye reserve which was drawn up as part of carbon capture plans for Longannet power station, before they were scrapped in 2011.
“The offshore piece is something we’ve done before so we can simply do that again,” said Shell project manager Paul Garnham.
“The onshore plan will be something new to us and will require planning permission. There will be a separate public consultation for those plans, probably later in the year.”
He said: “In the short term, if the project gets up and running, construction will take place during 2016, 2017 and 2018. Obviously, jobs will be created, but at this stage it’s hard to say just how many. We are looking at tens or hundreds of posts over a period of up to two years.”
Mr Garnham said the first CO2 (carbon dioxide) gases will be piped offshore around the end of 2018 or in the first quarter of the following year. A smaller workforce will be kept on at the power station to man the new facility.
“In the longer term, if this project is successful and others try to replicate what we’ve done then you’re going to see more CO2 gas being brought up to the north-east to go offshore.
“Without wanting to overegg it, that could have a real impact on local industry.
“The industry is very buoyant at the moment, but what this will do is extend its lifespan.”
Last year, the UK Government revealed that the Peterhead project and a coal-based scheme at the Drax power plant in Selby, North Yorkshire, were the two preferred bidders for £1billion of CCS development funding.
Mr Garnham said it was likely the two projects would share the prize money.
“What we get from the government will not fund the whole project, so Shell and SSE will have to put their hands into their pockets to find the rest,” he said.
“We’re talking about a lot of money, but its something we are anticipating and are prepared to do.”
In 2011, a Scottish Enterprise study revealed that the north-east CCS plan could create 937 jobs and lead to £590million of investment during construction.
Peterhead Power Station was put forward as a potential CCS base several years ago.