Could you please explain briefly what the White Rose CCS project is and what progress has been made so far?
The White Rose Carbon Capture and Storage Project (White Rose) is a proposal to build a new ultrasupercritical coal-fired oxy power plant of up to 448 MW (gross) output, equipped with full carbon capture and storage. The oxy power plant will be located at the Drax Power Station site near Selby in North Yorkshire, in the UK.
White Rose is currently in FEED (Front End Engineering Design) stage, having been awarded a contract in December 2013 under the UK Government’s GBP 1 billion (EUR 1.27 billion - December 2014) CCS Commercialisation Programme. Additionally, in August 2014, the European Commission announced a funding award decision for White Rose of up to EUR 300 million under the European NER300 programme. The NER300 is an important source of funding for White Rose, and the award decision provides a strong signal for CCS in Europe.
White Rose is being developed by Capture Power, a consortium formed by three companies: Alstom, Drax and BOC, who are also responsible for delivering the Oxy Power Plant. The CO2 captured at White Rose will be transported by pipeline to a permanent geological storage site beneath the North Sea by National Grid through their Yorkshire and Humber CCS pipeline project.
Why is this project significant and why was the Yorkshire and Humberside site chosen?
White Rose would be one of the first commercial scale plants of its type in the world and aims to demonstrate that CCS technology can be used to generate reliable, flexible, low-carbon electricity competitively, whilst helping to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions.
The Yorkshire and Humber region in the UK is an ideal location for CCS projects due to the number of power stations and large industrial plants in relatively close proximity, together representing approximately 19% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. A report published by the research organisation CO2Sense found that the Yorkshire and Humber is the “best strategic location in Europe” to establish a CCS cluster due to the high concentration of emitters, as well as the proximity to potential North Sea storage sites and presence of an advanced supply chain.
The CCS pipeline being developed by National Grid would have the capacity to transport up to 17 million tonnes of CO2 every year, significantly in excess of the 2 million tonnes CO2 captured annually at White Rose, which is intended to act as the anchor project and potential catalyst for development of the regional CCS network.
How will White Rose contribute to the UK’s energy security and future plans for low carbon energy, including nuclear and renewables?
White Rose would be capable of capturing two million tonnes of CO2 per year, some 90% of all CO2 emissions produced by the plant. The plant also has the potential for biomass co-firing, leading to zero or even negative emissions, which could reduce the burden of decarbonisation on other UK industry sectors.
CCS technology is said to enable the most cost effective path to decarbonisation in reports by the Energy Technologies Institute, International Energy Agency and Trade Union Congress, the latter estimating that the cost of decarbonisation would be 20 – 25% higher in the UK without CCS.
CCS technology ensures energy security through a stable and reliable grid at minimum cost to meet carbon targets, through flexible operating to complement intermittent renewables and base-load nuclear and meet fluctuating consumer demand.
Can White Rose produce electricity that is cost competitive?
As mentioned earlier, CCS technology promises to be the most cost effective path to decarbonisation and White Rose is expected to confirm the output of the UK’s CCS Cost Reduction Task Force (CRTF) that has identified pathways for reducing the costs of CCS as the industry develops. Specifically, the CRTF report concluded: “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 GBP 100/MWh (EUR 134/MWh) by the early 2020s, and at a cost significantly below GBP 100/MWh soon thereafter.”
Co-firing of coal with biomass promises zero carbon emissions. Is this feasible?
Yes, co-firing of coal with biomass is absolutely feasible. The oxyfuel technology applied to White Rose is applicable for all types of boilers, firing systems and fuels, biomass being one of many options.
What are some of the main challenges facing the project and how might these be dealt with?
The challenges for development of the CCS industry to realise its potential are highlighted by the report by the UK Trades Union Congress. They include recommendations for: a “long-term vision” for CCS endorsed by the Government, further CCS projects to follow quickly from the two CCS competition projects (one of which is White Rose), development of transport and storage infrastructure and the Electricity Market Reform programme to be successfully implemented.
Overall, White Rose represents the first and crucial step on the road to CCS commercialisation and will be critical in demonstrating the benefits of CCS on the path to affordable decarbonisation whilst ensuring energy security.
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