Kiran Stacey Gas CCS comes one step closer

Here’s some news that will cheer both environmentalists and hydrocarbon producers.

The UK government is going to open up its CCS trials to gas plants as well as coal ones. After the first demonstration, the next batch of three will be open to applications from gas-fired power plants.

Chris Huhne said in a statement:

We are determined to ensure the UK continues to be at the forefront of CCS development – and this sets us on course to lead the world in the development of CCS on gas as well as coal.

This is something oil and gas companies have been pushing for for a while. They say that without the input of gas (combined with CCS), the UK is not going to meet its target of reducing carbon emissions 80 per cent by 2050.

They will be particularly pleased by the phrasing in one passage of DECC’s release today:

The UK looks set to rely on gas for years to come. We won’t be able to take the carbon out of all gas plants overnight, but we hope to support the process by investment in new technology now

Green campaigners also welcomed the news. Nick Nolho, head of energy policy at WWF, said:

The demonstration of CCS on gas plants could play an important role in the UK’s efforts to limit carbon emissions from existing fossil fuel plants.

In the past, such posuitive messages on gas were unthinkable, not least because of the problems with security of supply as demonstrated by the Russian-Ukranian gas row last year.

And they remain controversial. Renewables companies and some green campaigners say that a reliance on gas will lead the UK to miss its target of producing 15 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. Oil and gas companies say the target is unachievable and should be ditched.

Environmentalists will also be unhappy that DECC is not applying the same emissions standards on gas plants as it does for coal in the short or medium term. DECC says this is to encourage companies to bid for CCS demonstrations. But WWF says:

Whilst burning gas is less intensive than burning coal, new unabated gas-fired plants still emit a lot of carbon and have an operating life of 25 to 30 years.