Government backs Teesside CCS plant

A tentative agreement to build an innovative gas-fired power station with a carbon capture system is “a real game-changer”, according to a minister.

Announced today by the US-based 8 Rivers Capital and Singapore’s Sembcorp, the Whitetail Clean Energy facility would supply about 300 megawatts of power from the vast Wilton International industrial park in Redcar. The location will provide access to a new pipeline planned to transport industrial CO2 emissions for permanent geological storage under the North Sea.

The deal is “subject to regulatory support” and the finalisation of investment, according to the firms. But it could be online as early as 2025, with “multiple” facilities following across the country.

The plant is expected to harness the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, developed by NET Power in the US and employed at pilot scale in Texas. Rather than burning gas in air, it uses pure oxygen instead, producing supercritical CO2 as a working fluid rather than steam. The oxyfuel process therefore eliminates the formation of nitrogen oxides, which derive from atmospheric nitrogen. The pollutant poses a problem for carbon capture and storage as it can form acids that can corrode the infrastructure required.

Oyxfuel technology featured in the abortive first wave of CCS power station announcements, but for coal rather than gas.

Energy & climate change minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “The development of the UK’s first-ever net zero power station, benefitting from over £6 million government support since 2012 is a real game-changer and a significant step forward in the UK’s fight against climate change as we build back greener from the pandemic. This project not only demonstrates the UK’s leadership in helping the world decarbonise but our expertise in scaling up research and development projects, creating over 2,000 jobs in Teesside and opening up opportunities right across the supply chain – supporting our efforts to revitalise this key industrial heartland.”

However, it is not the first plan for a power station with CCS. Drax is planning to connect its vast biomass-fired facility in Yorkshire to offshore storage and other plants are being developed at Peterhead and Scunthorpe.

Cam Hosie, chief executive of 8 Rivers Capital, said: “Project Whitetail represents a key step towards Net Zero with the UK and US working in close collaboration. The Allam-Fetvedt Cycle technology was first supported by the UK government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change in 2010, and the announcement today of the Whitetail Clean Energy project demonstrates the value of supporting research and development projects to support the UK’s efforts to achieve its net zero targets, with commercially scaled technologies today returning to the United Kingdom as proven concepts. The UK’s leadership in supporting the Allam-Fetvedt Cycle will lead to significant investment into the United Kingdom and an acceleration in the deployment of NET Power plants in the UK to provide gigawatts of clean power alongside renewable energy to help meet our collective climate goals as fast as possible.”

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “This is yet another huge boost for Teesside and will see more good-quality, well-paid jobs created first in construction and then the innovative clean energy sector.”

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