F.Starr PhD, BSc, FIMMM, C.Eng: Materials and Energy Consultant
Dr F Starr played a major part in the EU Supported Dynamis Programme, in which natural gas steam reforming, and coal based IGCC based processes, were to be developed to capture CO2 from fossil fuels. Both processes would produce a hydrogen rich gas which could be used in a combined cycle gas turbine system for electricity generation. These technologies and equipment are well proven, unlike steam plant CCS schemes, which are still at the very early demonstration stages .
However, if the issue of carbon capture is examined from a UK point of view, serious questions arise. It is well known that UK and European gas and oil reserves are diminishing. It is less well understood that UK coal output and reserves are now negligible. It follows that an extensive CCS sector will add to a growing UK import bill.
Fossil fuel plants in the UK have been operated historically, on a two shift basis, as a means of meeting the day to night changes in demand. As renewable or nuclear energy grow, the need for fossil based plants to meet the variations in demand will increase. CCS plants which, are essentially suited for base load, are not ideal for this purpose.
Given that, as Scottish experience demonstrates, an IGCC-CCS plant could have been built fifty years ago, one must question whether Government and EU support for CCS R&D is properly targeted. The issues relating to transmission and safe geological storage of CO2 seem to need more consideration than capture. Although these particular matters are outside of the direct experience of Dr Starr, he will pose these questions in the hope of obtaining some answers.
Taking an overall view, Dr Starr wonders if the commitment to CCS, in the way currently envisaged, will come to fruition, given (a) the massive investment in the UK natural gas system and infrastructure, and (b) the affirmation that renewable power and nuclear will provide much of Britain’s electricity.
Any views or opinions expressed, are those of Dr Starr, and are not necessarily the views or opinions of any organisation with which he has been involved, or with which he is now associated.