Ambitious plans see Scottish gas pipes used to pump undersea
ALMOST 200 miles of Scotland's gas pipeline network will be converted to transport carbon dioxide from power stations so it can be stored beneath the North Sea under plans by National Grid.
A major portion of pipeline, stretching from Avonbridge in Stirling to St Fergus near Aberdeen, would be used to transport the greenhouse gas under the proposals.
The plans bring the potential of being able to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to clean up fossil fuel power stations one step closer.
CCS would involve capturing emissions from power plants and storing it in rocks or depleted oil and gas reserves hundreds of miles beneath the seabed.
However, the technology, which experts say has the potential to enable power stations to continue operating while meeting climate change targets, is yet to be proven on a commercial scale anywhere in the world.
Scotland hopes to become a global leader in the field, making the most of vast areas of potential storage beneath the North Sea.
But one challenge will be how to transport the from power stations to the ocean.
Now National Grid Gas is hoping to get permission to use 190 miles of pipeline used to bring gas to land, to instead transport out to sea from 2013. It is first proposal of its kind in the UK.
The plans could enable most of Scotland's more readily recoverable emissions to be transferred into storage.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said it was a "very significant" step forward.
"It shows very serious interest and that industry in general is taking carbon capture and storage very seriously," he said.
"They are thinking how practically to do this, which is a good sign. I think switching the pipes from one use to another is quite sensible."
An alternative to using pipelines would be to transport liquefied in lorries, but Dr Dixon said that would not be as efficient.
He added that he did not have any major concerns about the safety of transporting through pipelines.
"It should be safer (than transporting gas]. Methane is explosive but carbon dioxide isn't, so it might be even easier than what they do at the moment," he said.
Ofgem is carrying out a consultation into the proposals, which have been drawn up in cooperation with a consortium led by ScottishPower, which hopes its Longannet coal fired power plant in Fife will become one of the first in the world to use CCS technology.
One concern is likely to be over bottlenecks if there is not enough capacity left to transport gas supplies.
A spokesman for National Grid said: "With gas supplies from the North Sea declining and freeing up capacity, reusing the pipeline in this way could be a valuable way to help CCS in Scotland off to a running start.
"While the pipeline would initially connect up Scottish Power's Longannet power station, spare capacity could also be available to other future Scottish CCS projects, making it the first step in a Scottish CCS cluster."
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