Something’s burning

Yesterday, a fire broke out at a new £170 million facility being built at Longannet Power Station in Fife. The blaze happened in an area next to the main power facility where a Flue Gas Desulphurisation Unit – a facility that will help capture sulphur gases, allowing more of Scotland’s sulphurous opencast coal to be burned – is currently being constructed. Fife Fire and Rescue was called out at 3.05pm and were still there on Monday night although the blaze had been brought under control and no injuries or power losses were reported. 

Longannet is probably still smouldering as I write. There were few reports on this incident, which was probably nothing to worry about – these things happen. But what is worrying is that Scotland really is poised to become a world leader in “carbon capture” technology, which makes it hard to believe that Scotland will also be at the forefront of actually tackling climate change.

Carbon capture and storage is still very much on the drawing board, so any plans for new coal-fired power stations will require years of unabated coal-burning whether CCS proves itself or not. We have discussed the carbon capture myth previously and for a detailed and well-referenced article on the problems with CCS, see Coal Action Edinburgh’s site.

Fife – CO2 central

A £1 billion project to build a CO2 storage plant on the Firth of Forth is being drawn up by Scottish Power. Under the plan, millions of tonnes of CO2 from Longannet would be liquefied and sent hundreds of miles along a pipeline before being injected into a field of porous rock under the North Sea.

Such a plant would also prove highly useful to Thornton New Energy, who announced plans to drill into massive untapped coal seams under Fife and the Firth of Forth and convert the coal into combustible gas while it is still underground, a process which also produces large amounts of CO2.

Longannet, which is the country’s second-largest coal-fired power station, is one of three potential carbon capture hubs that have been identified in the UK, the others being in Humberside and Teesside (more astute readers will notice that the competitors in the Government’s CCS competition keep changing!). However, the plants in England, which are being planned by the energy companies E.ON and RWE, would require new coal power stations to be built and would therefore take much longer to become operational. Scottish Power believes its 300 megawatt plant could be up and running by 2014. But how much CO2 will it capture? Watch this space…or the preceding video clip!

So the race is on but sadly it’s not a race to a sustainable future – it seems to be a race to invest in business as usual.

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