UK government set to announce CCS coal-fed plant plans: ministry

London (Platts)--23Apr2009

The UK government said Thursday that the building of new coal-fired power stations will only be approved if they are part-fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.

The government also announced it will consult on whether there should be a strict emissions limit for any plant that is not retrofitted with the technology.

The plans, announced by energy and climate change minister Ed Miliband, follows a statement in Wednesday's budget from UK finance minister Alistair Darling of funding for up to four CCS demonstration projects.

The projects will be funded by an incentive mechanism, the details of which are still being developed.

CCS is a type of carbon abatement technology in which the carbon dioxide produced by fossil-fuel burning power plants is trapped and then stored underground. It is so far unproven on a commercial scale.

Miliband said all new coal plants built from now would have to retrofit CCS on the whole plant within five years of the technology being independently judged, most likely by the Environment Agency, as technically and commercially proven, which the government expects to happen by 2020.

He said the government will also seek views on whether it should introduce a performance standard for power plant emissions as an alternative way to encourage plant operators to fit CCS technology. He told MPs in the UK's lower parliament that coal's future in the UK's energy mix "poses the starkest dilemma we face."

"It is a polluting fuel but is used across the world because it is cheap and it is flexible enough to meet fluctuations in demand for power.

"In order to ensure that we maintain a diverse energy mix, we need new coal-fired power stations but only if they can be part of a low carbon future," Miliband said.

"With a solution to the problem of coal, we greatly increase our chances of stopping dangerous climate change. Without it we will not succeed."

He said the proposals signal that the "era of unabated coal is coming to an end, and a new low carbon future for coal with CCS can begin."

The proposals form part of a consultation that will be released in the summer, alongside an environmental report.

Decisions on any applications to construct a new coal power station will be taken once this consultation process has been completed. That includes E.ON UK's planned 1.6 GW coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth, Kent, which will be the first new coal-fired plant built in the UK for 30 years.

In an accompanying statement, the DECC also laid out plans for clusters of power stations, in areas such as the Thames, Humberside, Teesside, Firth of Forth and Merseyside, so that new pipeline infrastructure can be shared, reducing costs.

The government also laid out its approach to carbon capture readiness.

Any application to build new gas, oil, biomass, waste-to-energy and coal power stations over 300 MW will have to show that there is sufficient space available to retrofit CCS, as well as identify a suitable potential offshore area to store carbon dioxide.

Applications will also have to map a feasible potential transport route from the power station to the storage area and show that there are no foreseeable barriers to retrofitting CCS.

Together, these criteria will prove a power station is "carbon capture ready."

The chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Turner, said the proposals were consistent with the recommendations in his December report.

"These proposals are a very positive contribution to required decolonization of UK power generation in the period to 2030," Turner said.

"We were clear in our report that there can be no role for conventional coal generation in the UK beyond the early 2020s. This should be reflected by a very tight emissions limit being placed on any non-retrofitted plant beyond the early 2020s.

"We will work with the government to ensure that the detailed proposal to be set out later in the year includes a tight emissions limit," added Turner.

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