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A momentous day for CCS

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Carbon Capture and Storage

Today is a momentous day. Today is the day that clean electricity is generated on a commercial scale from a coal fired power station.

I am here at the Boundary Dam coal fired power plant in Saskatchewan, Canada, witnessing the historic moment when Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, throws the switch on the technology that will capture the carbon dioxide from a generating unit at a coal fired power plant. It will capture more than 90% of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise escape to the atmosphere - demonstrating to sceptics that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) can be deployed at scale. Several pilot scale capture facilities have operated in the past, but this is the first time carbon capture has operated on a commercial scale on a power station anywhere in the world.

The operators of Boundary Dam, SaskPower – a Canadian power utility company - developed a viable technical, environmental and economic case for investing in the carbon capture technology to transform an aging unit in a power station to one generating clean energy.

Boundary Dam will capture around one million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – which the project has calculated is the equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off Saskatchewan roads annually. The captured carbon dioxide will be transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields and used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Any carbon dioxide not used for EOR will be permanently stored in deep underground rock formations at Aquistore, approximately 2km west of Boundary Dam.

Boundary Dam will soon be joined by other commercial scale CCS power stations - Kemper County in the US, using pulverised coal to generate clean electricity, is expected to be in operation in 2015; and Petra Nova in Texas is under construction. Our own White Rose and Peterhead projects, which are part of the Government’s £1bn commercialisation programme, are making good progress on their planning and engineering studies so that we can take final investment decisions early in 2016.

The launch of this ground-breaking CCS project is an opportune moment to reflect on how important this technology is to achieving our long term domestic and global climate change ambitions. Just last week, delegates in New York were reminded of the IPCC conclusions that without CCS, meeting our climate targets will be much more expensive and much more difficult. Power generation with CCS is no longer a pipe dream – today it is a reality.

For the UK, CCS is one part of our future low carbon mix, and could support 15,000 -30,000 jobs by 2030.

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  1. Comment by Joan Ingles posted on

    One can wish it wasn’t so but globally fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere fast – every day power plants are being built across the world which will operate for the next 30, 40+ years. To reduce emissions with the scale and pace we need to, I think we are going to need technologies such as CCS while we transition away from our carbon intensive system. A transition which won’t happen overnight, just look at the progress made in the last 20 or 30 years since identifying climate change as a global problem. CCS might be able to buy us some time. It is just one part of the solution, but an important one and I welcome this milestone. I hope we see many more across the other new clean technologies too. Nice to see a bit of progress.

  2. Comment by Robert P Morley posted on

    Should have been at this stage 10-20 years ago! Sorry but the carbon mileage liabilities for transporting wood pellets (some being transported across from Canada!!) and other biomass products has to be criminal and these are still contributing significantly to increased carbon dioxide (unless one also cleans up these fuel sources at the generation site). With around 350 years of coal reserves in the UK it could still make real sense to use British coal but clean it up at the point of use. All fossil fuel power stations should be clean producers of energy, so lets not dither any longer and stop putting more funding into wind etc. which can never be cost effective nor low carbon with all of its associated carbon footprint, plus construction, installation, maintenance and replacement costs.

  3. Comment by Jeremy Poynton posted on

    And the cost to consumers is???????????????

    • Replies to Jeremy Poynton>

      Comment by Brin Jenkins posted on

      I can only talk on the UK green electricity situation. With the carbon levy applied to all consumers the cost was doubled when we achieved 10% renewable power. The next 10% will double it again. This is the financial cost to consumers of commissioning poor technology windturbines.

      We are basing all of this on a warming theory, note theory not a law, and not proven. Consensus of vested opinion has no place in real science. For support this theory reverses a cause, heat, releasing CO2 with its effect. That CO2 causes the heating. Reversing cause and effect is poor science and we need to question such theories closely. Conservation, reclaiming and reuse of energy, and cleaner combustion all lead to greater efficiency. Carbon taxes impoverish society with no gain for anyone or the planet.

  4. Comment by Phillip Bratby posted on

    How much does this technology (which hasn't been shown to work yet) add to the cost of the electricity generated? In other words by how much is the efficiency of the power station reduced? Why is there no mention of the cost?

    • Replies to Phillip Bratby>

      Comment by Derek Buxton posted on

      If you look at the EU Referendum site you will find the cost of the upgrade, $400000000, CCS scheme $1b. but it goes further because 34% of the electricity generated is used for the CCS. Read the full details, it is a nonsensical idea with huge costs.....for the consumer!

    • Replies to Phillip Bratby>

      Comment by Brin Jenkins posted on

      The first 10% added 100% to our bills.

  5. Comment by Ewan posted on

    How do the carbon savings from the CCS compare with the extra carbon emissions resulting from the use of the extra oil that it's helping to extract?

  6. Comment by Harry Passfield posted on

    Absolutely astounding! What on earth is the cost of this CCS? One Million tonnes of CO2? Amazing! Compared to what, in terms of normal CO2 generation? And who is paying???

    And what do they do with the CO2 recovered in CCS? They send it down oil wells and 'frack' them, so that more oil can be recovered. So where are the greenies now, to close down the fracking sites?

    Where is the cost/benefit analysis of CCS? Hint: AGW is not part of the equation: there has been no statistical warming for 18+ years.

  7. Comment by Radical Rodent posted on

    As all the indications are that the rising CO2 levels are actually of global benefit (increased crops, decreasing deserts, etc...), why spend so much "capturing" such a valuable gas?

    Yes, I know the theory: rising CO2 will give rising temperatures. Here's some news - facts: CO2 levels are rising (still); temperatures are not (and have not for over 16 years). Should you allow facts to trump theory? Or is your theory so valuable that no amount of facts can change it?

  8. Comment by Stew Green posted on

    I'd like to see some proper cost benefit analysis for all the money DECC has spent on it's war on CO2.
    - How much global temperature rise have they averted in the last 20 years of spending ?

    • Replies to Stew Green>

      Comment by tty posted on

      Easy enough to calculate. There is about 3x10^12 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. Doubling this amount will raise temperatures about 3 degrees (according to conventional claims) or 1.5 degrees (if you actually calculate the effect based on IPCC data). Actual measurements support the lower figure. So each million tons of CO2 buried will <i>at the most</i> lower the temperature by 0.000001 degrees, and more likely by 0.0000005 degrees ore less.

  9. Comment by Martin Sherring posted on

    This is encouraging but has no-one noticed the irony in using the CO2 for enhanced oil recovery? I thought there was broad consensus that, to have a reasonable chance of staying within 2 deg C increase, we need to leave 80% of discovered fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

  10. Comment by PeterMG posted on

    After so many years without any "global warming" and the heat "hiding in the ocean" is it not perhaps time we came clean with the whole absurdity of calling CO2, the single most important gas to more than 90% of all life, a pollutant. And the absurd thing is that CCS reduces efficiency to zero when you remove all CO2 from the flue gases. We have shown we can remove the sulphur, the NOx, the particulates and the un-burnt hydrocarbons, in theory leaving just water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) It has taken considerable ingenuity to achieve this without losing too much efficiency. However these "real pollutants" that turn our atmosphere foul are just minor constituents of the combustion process. CO2 and H2O are the main natural by-products and removing one of these boarders on the absurd in both economic terms and in practical terms. Those who speak honestly about CCS and who are not linked financially to either government or a power company will tell you that it will never come to pass. If government was serious about reducing CO2 we would be building on our ability to factory build small modular nuclear reactors, not the completely impractical monstrosities currently being planned, and in vesting in molten salt technology. Leave the current coal and gas stations in place until replaced by nuclear. And by the way

  11. Comment by Gerry posted on

    The plant cost $1.4bn of which only $400m was for the generation equipment. A staggering $1bn was for the CCS plant alone!!
    The plant now has an output of 162MW but of that output, 34MW will drive the CCS plant so that when added to the 18MW of power required to drive useful parts of the plant we have an overall loss of 32% of capacity.
    If CCS was rolled out across all US coal power stations an extra 400-600Mt of coal would be used and 75-100GW of power generation wasted - enough to power California.
    Complete lunacy. And all for what? To reduce carbon dioxide output that does nothing to harm us. If it did then global temperature would not have peaked 18 years ago while CO2 concentration has increased.

  12. Comment by Bengt Abelsson posted on

    It seems to be a CC project: Carbon Capture
    "The captured CO2 will be transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields in southern Saskatchewan where it will be used for enhanced oil recovery. "

    The "storage" part is not disclosed.

  13. Comment by John Shade posted on

    What a virtuoso deployment of Occam's Broom. This piece will be used in civil service training for years to come whenever skills for the public interface are being taught.

  14. Comment by Steve Y posted on

    And of course DECC want this monstrously expensive technology to become part of the UK "low carbon energy mix". The cost of which is of no consequence to them. DECC "Don't Ever Consider Consumers"

  15. Comment by Neil Ca Catto posted on

    I wish you would refrain from calling it carbon capture. As any scientist with a semblance of knowledge would tell you, carbon is a solid (Newton & the Law of Gravity!), I think you refer to carbon dioxide (gas) capture. CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere accounting for 0.04% of atmospheric gases.

    Anthropogenic contribution of CO2 is 1.7%, which equates to 0.0007%. So you are expounding that 0.0007% increase of CO2 is going to change the climate, by how much?

    Now take into consideration that in the UK the temperature has a downward trend (albeit very small) for 21 years and CO2 levels have continued to rise (~17%). And global temperatures have not increased for 18 years. Now tell me the relationship between increasing CO2 and increasing temperature.

    Your war on inexpensive energy, will take us back into the dark ages, probably literally.

    All these facts are from peer reviewed papers and Met Office data if you require references.

  16. Comment by Ivor Ward posted on

    Even George Orwell would be hard put to create a Department as delusional as DECC. 1,200 coal fired power stations are in planning or being built across the world. Not one of them will have CCS. If they all did we would have to build 1,800 to make up for the efficiency losses and still provide the same power output, and burn one third again as much coal. ( . Why is DECC trying to destroy our economy with mindless CCS schemes when it would not make the slightest statistical difference to world emissions if all our coal stations actually closed tomorrow. If DECC are genuinely concerned about CO2 induced Climate Change then why are they not putting 100% resources into nuclear with gas back up. There is no alternative to this scenario. Turbines, CCS, and solar panels do not cut it in the real world.

  17. Comment by Ashley Ibbett posted on

    Thanks for the comments and interest in the blog.

    Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) forms part of our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is a key part of our future energy mix allowing us to reduce carbon emissions with increased energy security. Without CCS, delivering a robust, low carbon energy system will be much more expensive. It’s also a key technology to enable allow our large manufacturing plants, such as those at Teesside, to reduce their emissions and compete in a low carbon future. The UK’s CCS Commercialisation Programme ( has £1 billion in capital funding available designed to bring forward the first commercial scale projects in the UK. The Commercialisation Programme complements wider activity the Government is undertaking including a four year £125 million CCS Research and Development Programme and international engagement. The development of CCS in the UK is likely to support thousands of jobs as well as contribute to an affordable, secure, low carbon energy system. Taken together, White Rose and Peterhead already represent potential investment of over £2bn in CCS, and could support over 2000 jobs during construction.

    Many of you have commented on cost. In 2012 the CCS Cost Reduction Task Force was formed to advise Government and industry on reducing the cost of CCS so that projects are competitive with other low carbon technologies in the early 2020s. Last May the Task Force published a report( recommending how to achieve CCS cost reductions and develop the CCS industry in the UK. The report concluded that: “UK gas and coal power stations equipped with carbon capture, transport and storage have clear potential to be cost competitive with other forms of low-carbon power generation, delivering electricity at a levelised cost approaching £100/MWh by the early 2020s, and at a cost significantly below £100/MWh soon thereafter.” DECC, in response, set out a vision of three possible phases of CCS development in the UK – with the Commercialisation Programme projects representing the first phase, anticipating that a second phase of projects could come forward in parallel to these. The third and final phase of projects will, taking advantage of the advances and lessons learned from the previous phases, complete the transition to fully commercial cost-competitive CCS, operating in the 2020s.

    The benefits of early action to mitigate climate change considerably outweigh the costs (Stern Review 2006). DECC’s £1bn CCS Commercialisation Programme will help ensure that we replace our power stations with modern, cleaner alternatives and reinforce our networks so they continue to deliver reliable energy to our homes and businesses. This investment will keep the lights on and emissions down, whilst saving consumers money on their energy bills, and potentially support up to 15,000 jobs by 2030 (

  18. Comment by Bill Gordon posted on

    You are still basing future policy on Stern's outdated fantasies?!!

    God help us all.

  19. Comment by Tony Day posted on


    As you are no doubt aware, the World's first commercial scale CCS plant is not in fact a power station, but the synthetic methane plant at Great Plains in Dakota. This has been fully operational since the mid-1980's, and delivering commercial scale CCS since 2000.

    Due to the CO2 partial pressure in a methane synthesis plant being up to 3 orders of magnitude higher than in a fossil fuel power station, the net loss of efficiency in deploying CCS, and the unit cost of CO2 separation and compression, is between 2 and 3 orders of magnitude lower than in a fossil fuel power station.

    The basic Physics and Chemistry of CO2 separation make the economics of delivering CCS on high CO2 partial pressure chemical and process industry plants far more favourable than the economics of delivering CCS on power generation. If the rational economic objective is to put the cheapest tonne of CO2 below ground first, and the most expensive tonne last, then the rational energy policy would be to deploy CCS on methane, hydrogen and ammonia synthesis, and natural gas sweetening first, and on power generation last, not vice versa.

    Best wishes

    Tony Day
    Low Carbon Gas Ltd

  20. Comment by Steven Marshall posted on

    A great achievement by our Canadian counterparts, but disappointing from a UK perspective. Back in 2008 we were leading the pack, but now we can only sit and watch as the world over takes us while we continue to move ponderously towards FID for UK plants in 2016. Strange how things change, i.e. from World leader to follower.

  21. Comment by Radical Rodent posted on

    Good Lord! You truly believe your own tripe, don't you? CCS adds $1 BILLION to a $400 million expansion, and you truly, <i>truly, <b>truly</b></i> believe it is going to make things <i>less</i> expensive!?

    Far greater minds than mine have pointed out some of the flaws in this system - even I can see its huge errors, yet you reply with the above trite nonsense. That you are doing this on money that I have been forced to give to the government through taxation, is bad enough, but knowing that you are probably being considerably paid more than I is just rubbing salt into the wound!

  22. Comment by Stew Green posted on

    Thanks Ashley Ibbett for replying & having an open discussion instead of being like the Guardian where comments on green articles are routinely 'sanitized' to give a one sided debate
    - "CCS ...allowing us to reduce carbon emissions with increased energy security. "
    error 1 CCS makes no difference to energy security
    "Without CCS, delivering a robust, low carbon energy system will be much more expensive."
    ..Que ? bolting on a $1bn subsidised plant to an existing $400m and lower it's production seems like an hell of an expensive solution.
    (If there are genuine solutions that work without a huge subsidy ..then private biz would be doing them)
    In reality - changing coal for gas delivers far more reduction in CO2 for £ spent than "magic green solutions"
    - "It’s also a key technology to enable allow our large manufacturing plants, such as those at Teesside "
    - If they stayed in the UK and used CCS who is going to pay for it ? Govt subsidy ? or the biz itself ? .. dream on .. more likely plants will move abroad where they don't have to obey green fantasy rules

    - "investment of over £2bn in CCS, and could support over 2000 jobs during construction."
    That's the green jobs fallacy as any government money spent within the UK supports jobs, no matter what you spend it on. Similarly taking money away from the taxpayer decreases the number of jobs they support directly.
    - cost : “approaching £100/MWh by the early 2020s, and at a cost significantly below £100/MWh soon thereafter.” That's not very impressive as other countries who aren't bothered about CO2 can generate electricity at £40/MWh so you'd be paying £60/MWh to mitigate CO2. You could give money to another country for forest and pretend that you are mitigating CO2 like the celebrity hippies do; except they pay far less "from a high of about €30 per tonne in 2008, prices are now languishing at €6" on the EU ETS (1MWh from coal gives less than 2 tonnes)
    - Instead of investing tax money in CCS why don't we use confident private investors e.g. use 30% of the money intended for DECC pensions , then when CCS becomes "profitiable" they'll end up with a bigger pension than they expected.
    - "The benefits of early action to mitigate climate change considerably outweigh the costs" (Stern Review 2006) any other sources other than someone who works for the Grantham bigGreen hedgefund ?
    - "whilst saving consumers money on their energy bills" Saving implies bills will be lower than today. Bills with CCS will be higher than without
    - "and potentially support up to 15,000 jobs by 2030" missed the word "UNNECESSARY" Part of your job is to minimise the number of workers who are needed in the electricity industry that way bills are less and the public will have that cash to spend on other things ..and jobs will be supported with that cash ..As I pointed out before your claim is the "green job fallacy as any money spent within the UK supports jobs, no matter what you spend it on."