Fix the Planet newsletter: Carbon capture power stations are back

Will gasoline energy stations outfitted with carbon seize and storage be the way forward for energy crops within the UK?


11 March 2022

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Keadby 2 gas-fired energy station

David Soulsby / Alamy

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What does the ability station of the long run appear like to you? Fleets of wind generators and rows of photo voltaic panels would possibly spring to thoughts. In the UK, it’s more and more clear that offshore wind farms are going to be the spine of the nation’s vitality system due to economics, emissions and the ecosystem of corporations supplying them right here. Alongside these, we’re going to want much more vitality storage, extra energy hyperlinks to different nations and extra vitality effectivity.

But it’s additionally a practical chance that we’re going to want different energy stations that may be fired up at will for when we now have mini wind droughts or spikes in demand. I took the practice as much as Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire final week to satisfy Alistair Phillips-Davies, the chief govt of vitality big SSE, and listen to about his plans to construct the world’s first hydrogen energy station and one other potential first, a gasoline energy plant outfitted with carbon seize and storage (CCS).

So, what would these energy stations appear like?

I travelled to the extremely flat panorama that’s house to Keadby 2, an 893-megawatt gasoline energy station in east England that SSE has nearly completed. It will nearly definitely be the UK’s final gasoline energy station with out CCS. Looking out from the roof of its cooling towers, nevertheless, you may see two fields that SSE hopes to show into Keadby 3. If it will get constructed and comes on-line in the direction of the tip of this decade, it will be the world’s first gasoline energy station with CCS (it faces competitors for the title from one other undertaking, at Peterhead in Scotland). In concept, it ought to seize about 95 per cent of the plant’s carbon dioxide, says Phillips-Davies. Exhaust gases from the plant can be run by means of a liquid, sucking up the CO2, earlier than it’s compressed and transported by means of a pipeline that doesn’t exist but. That will whisk the carbon dioxide away for storage in an outdated oil and gasoline reservoir underneath the seabed. Again, such a facility must be constructed.

Hang on, haven’t we been right here earlier than with CCS energy stations?

With coal, sure. It didn’t work out properly. There had been some small-scale pilots within the UK, together with one at Ferrybridge, a now-closed coal plant that isn’t 1,000,000 miles from Keadby. There is one large-scale coal energy station with CCS working in Canada, however it hasn’t carried out in addition to hoped. There seems little urge for food globally for additional coal energy with CCS. But Phillips-Davies thinks gasoline crops with CCS can be totally different and could possibly be a cornerstone of assembly the UK authorities’s objective of a totally decarbonised energy system by 2035. He concedes gasoline costs are “very unusual” in the mean time (learn: document highs), however doesn’t suppose that undermines the case for his imaginative and prescient.

What are the indicators that Keadby 3 will ever be greater than an artist’s impression?

Phillips-Davies says thousands and thousands of kilos have already been spent and notes that SSE has earmarked “hundreds of millions” for future CCS and hydrogen tasks. The planning course of has already began (SSE was holding a gathering with native individuals 10 minutes away on the day I visited, and an preliminary session closes on 20 March). But till a closing funding choice is made, it stays a proposal quite than a agency wager. Richard Howard at analysts Aurora Energy Research says the ability station would clearly want some type of new authorities assist to make it occur.

And what in regards to the hydrogen plant?

Next to the fields the place Keadby 3 would possibly sit are automotive parks and cabins that could possibly be moved to make approach for Keadby Hydrogen. It can be the world’s first massive hydrogen energy station, if accomplished this decade as hoped by SSE and its associate, the Norwegian oil and gasoline big Equinor. To date, most makes use of of hydrogen for electrical energy era have been small scale and concerned gas cells in buildings, quite than burning the stuff to energy generators. The proposed new energy station would arguably be much more bold than the CCS gasoline one, as a result of nobody has tried something like this earlier than. “On paper it sounds great,” says Jess Ralston on the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a UK-based suppose tank.

This is the place you’ll inform us the supply of the hydrogen is necessary, proper?

You’re one step forward. Almost the entire world’s hydrogen in the present day is created from fossil fuels, producing carbon emissions equal to these of the UK and Indonesia collectively annually. So the brand new plant will have to be fuelled with inexperienced hydrogen (made utilizing renewable electrical energy and electrolysers) or blue hydrogen (reformed from pure gasoline with the CO2 captured and saved). Equinor is planning a blue hydrogen plant simply up the highway from Keadby Hydrogen, at a undertaking known as H2H Saltend.

Phillips-Davies says he thinks some blue hydrogen is the “right way to start”, to have sufficient volumes accessible and since it’s more likely to be cheaper than inexperienced hydrogen. However, he says: “Ultimately, I think you want to get to green. When we build more and more of our big wind farms offshore, I suspect then we’ll get into green hydrogen. We’re doing a lot of work on what size an electrolyser fleet can SSE own by the end of this.” For now, he says low-carbon hydrogen consumption and manufacturing merely must get going. “The hydrogen journey is just starting.”

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