$3 Billion North Sea carbon capture, storage network planned

NORTH SEA - Since the turn of the century there has been a steady stream of proposals for carbon capture and storage (CSS) schemes worldwide. Many of the project proposals have been pilot schemes or have been based on the emissions of a single power generation or hydrocarbon project.

The scale and overall scope of the CCS concept has now been upped by the plans of the United Kingdom's National Grid plc to launch a new business entity, National Grid Carbon (NGC), which will create a pipeline network to carry carbon emissions from UK power stations for storage in the geological formations of old North Sea gas fields.

The permeable rock formations, from which all of the original gas has been pumped, are ideally suited for permanent carbon storage. National Grid plans to use existing pipelines and infrastructure in the North Sea, which was formerly used to transport natural gas, wherever possible.

National Grid's director of network operations, Chris Train, told The Times (UK) that plans were being developed for a $3 billion carbon-transport and storage network around the Humber estuary in Yorkshire. Emissions from five of the UK's largest coal- and gas-fired power stations located in the region could feed into the network.

Industrial plants, including refinery and chemical complexes, are sited around the Humber estuary, emitting around 60 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and giving the region the dubious honor of being the largest carbon-dioxide emitter in Europe.

Train said that National Grid's pipeline network would provide the gathering system to collect the carbon and then pump and store it offshore. He added that the company's expertise lay in running safe and effective pipeline networks, making the NGC scheme was a good corporate fit. National Grid believes that NGC could play a major role in the company's long term growth by serving UK power plants fitted with CCS equipment.

The CCS system could be operational by 2012 which would meet the government's deadline of 2012 for the first operational, commercial scale CCS-equipped power plant. National Grid, operator of the UK's high voltage power transmission and gas distribution networks, is planning long term investment in NGC, which could amount to billions of more dollars.

A technical team from National Grid is working with a unit at Newcastle University to study methods of storing and moving carbon by pipe, and a commercial development business team is examining ways in which NGC could be structured and financed.

National Grid is reported to be talking to major power generators in the Humber region including E.ON AG, Drax Group plc and Scottish and Southern Energy plc and the regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward. The plan could provide a model to replicate the scheme elsewhere in UK regions such as Scotland and East Anglia, where there are concentrations of coal-fired power stations.


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