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UK: Coal power stations to include carbon capture

Apr 23, 2009 - David Stringer - The Associated Press

New coal-fired power stations will only be approved in Britain if they include plans to develop carbon capture and storage technology, Britain's Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said on Thursday.

Miliband said that, if carbon capture techniques are proven following trials, all coal-powered plants would need to install and use them, most likely by a deadline of 2025.

Carbon-capture technology seeks to remove carbon dioxide from burning coal, convert it to a liquid and pump it underground. Empty oil and gas fields under the North Sea are among possible sites suggested to store the waste.

Miliband told the House of Commons that the technique could help cut carbon emissions by 90 percent. Critics, however, claim the technology is a largely unproven and may not work on a commercial scale.

"With a solution to the problem of coal, we greatly increase our chances of stopping dangerous climate change. Without it, we will not succeed," Miliband told the House of Commons.

Efforts to develop carbon capture are being driven by the need to continue using coal, a relatively cheap source of fuel, and at the same time meet targets to lower carbon dioxide emissions.

The European Union is investing around euro1.05 billion ($1.42 billion) in 13 carbon capture-and-storage experiments, aimed at proving the technology works.

Experiments already under way include projects backed by Norwegian energy companies in the North Sea and a large-scale demonstration in the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, Canada. The projects are aimed at proving the techniques are workable for large-scale power stations.

Miliband said as many as four new coal-fired power stations will be built by 2020, largely because a number of aging power plants are due to close down over the next decade.

Those new power stations will only be approved if they join experiments with carbon capture, he said.

Miliband said Britain expects the technology will have been fully developed by 2020. He said that by 2025, all modern coal fired power stations would be ordered to use the technique.

"Every new coal-fired power station would have to commit to carbon capture and storage, not just on a portion - but on the whole plant," he said.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said the plan was a radical departure from previous policies. "We see hints of real climate leadership," said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven.

But Sauven said concerns remain about the rate of carbon emissions before 2025, and what Britain's policy will be if carbon capture experiments fail.