Plans for clean-coal project

Friday, 02 November, 2007

ScottishPower energy company has put forward revolutionary plans to convert its two biggest power stations to clean-coal technology.

The company said the proposals would see new turbines and low-emission boilers being installed at the power stations in Scotland. The turbines and boilers would burn coal at ultra-high temperatures and pressures; they could be built within the existing power station buildings at Longannet in Fife and the Cockenzie plant in East Lothian.

Carbon emissions would be reduced by up to 25% at the stations that have a total generation capacity of 3390 megawatt (MW), more than 25% of Scotland’s electricity needs.

The phased 19-month development foresees both stations continuing to operate at a reduced capacity while the work is carried out.

Construction could start in 2009 with operations beginning in 2012, further extending the lives of both plants and providing Scotland with low-carbon, base-load electricity for the foreseeable future. Although not explicitly part of this process, the refitted stations will also be designed to incorporate carbon-capture technology being developed at Longannet.

The scheme involves pumping carbon emissions from the station into deep underground coal seams to drive out methane gas that can then be used as a fuel. The carbon emissions are to remain trapped underground. Scottish Power said it hoped that the remaining CO2 would eventually be buried in the old Longannet coal mine.

In efforts to reduce climate-control concerns, the European Union (EU) has asked for all coal-fired plants to be fitted with carbon capture and storage technology from 2020 to cut the level of greenhouse gas emissions. As a first step towards this, it would like all plants to be designed to be capture-ready by 2010. The EU wants to see about 12 full-scale plants up and running across Europe by 2015, allowing five years of operation before the 2020 deadline.

In further ‘green power acceleration’, the company is looking to contract farmers to produce 250,000 tonnes of energy crops to be burned at Longannet and Cockenzie. The energy crop will displace coal burned in the stations.

Energy crops provide carbon-neutral fuel because the CO2 that is released when the crop is burned is equal to the CO2 that is captured as the plants are grown. ScottishPower already burns carbon-neutral biomass such as wood at the coal-fired power stations as part of its renewable program.

The project will use about 12% of Scotland’s total agricultural land — roughly 35,000 hectares — with 5% of the company’s coal requirement displaced by green fuel crops by 2013.

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