Carbon capture: warning over failures at CCS projects labelled as “pioneers” by Scottish Government
Climate campaigners are highlighting research shows that two carbon storage fields in Norway have experienced unpredictable carbon movement underground and reduced storage capacity.
The projects are held up as the industry gold standard. Scottish Government Ministers have previously highlighted these projects as “pioneers” and as successes to justify its funding of, and overreliance on, carbon capture and storage (CCS) to meet climate targets.
Last week the Prime Minister flew to Scotland to announce priority support for the Acorn carbon capture project. The Scottish Government has spoken of being the “centre of a European hub for the importation and storage of CO2 from Europe” effectively turning Scotland into a carbon dumping ground for the rest of Europe.
Campaigners say that with more attempts to store carbon underground comes more pipelines, more transport movements and more chances of carbon leakage and accidents.
The independent advisors at the UK Climate Change Committee, along with Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee have expressed clear concerns about the ability of carbon capture to work, and have both recommended that Scottish Ministers develop an alternative plan to meet climate targets that does not rely on CCS.
Carbon capture research by IEEFA
Crucially, the research by Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) says that, despite being the most studied CCS projects in the world, Sleipner and Snøhvit in Norway cannot be proxies for much larger CCS projects.
The research questions whether the world has “sufficient technical prowess, strength of regulatory oversight, and unwavering multi-decade commitment of capital and resources needed to keep CO2 sequestered below the sea, as intended, permanently.”
The Sleipner and Snøhvit fields store about 22million tonnes but the Scottish Government want to store over 360 million tonnes in the Captain Sandstone field alone, making it 16 times larger.
The draft Scottish Energy Strategy estimates there is 46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide storage potential in Scottish waters, this represents over 2000 times the size of the Norwegian projects.
Campaigners say that CCS already risks prolonging the life of the oil and gas industry and distracting from climate solutions that work today.
Norway news ‘raises real red flags’
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Climate Campaigner Alex Lee said:
“It turns out the carbon capture industry’s poster child has far more problems than they’d like to admit. This research raises real red flags about a project that Scottish Ministers have hailed as a pioneer, and used to justify their over-reliance on the technology to meet climate goals.”
“The fact is there is no large scale carbon capture and storage scheme working anywhere in the UK and so the industry will be proceeding by trial and error. Carbon capture and storage has a long history of failure and the costs of these projects going wrong, leaking carbon or simply not getting off the ground could spell disaster for the environment and climate.
“Despite the doubts and the risks, both the Scottish and UK Governments are in thrall to the oil industry’s hype on carbon capture. Politicians are handing out billions in public subsidies to obscenely wealthy companies like Shell, encouraging them to keep wrecking the planet, while ignoring climate solution that will work today and improve lives like public transport and home insulation.
“Both the Scottish and UK Governments have fallen for industry greenwash rather than face the reality that the only solution to the climate crisis is a fast and fair phase out of oil and gas.”
Notes to Editors
IEEFA research Norway’s Sleipner and Snøhvit CCS: Industry models or cautionary tales?
Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson response to Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee Commission questions on Carbon Capture and Storage in April 2022.
Draft Scottish Energy Strategy 2023
UK Committee on Climate Change monitoring report December 2021:
“The Climate Change Plan update’s ambition for 2030 relies on a substantial contribution from engineered greenhouse gas removals (GGRs), but recent developments in UK climate policy increase the uncertainty around their timely delivery. Clear contingencies will have to be developed for meeting the 2030 target if it should turn out that GGRs cannot be delivered at scale on the necessary timetable.”
Timeline of Carbon Capture failures in Scotland
Rishi Sunak announces support for carbon capture and re-affirms commitment to new oil and gas exploration (31/7/23)
Centre for International Environmental Law. “Confronting the myth of carbon-free fossil fuels: why carbon capture is not a climate solution”
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Report in 2021 concluded that significant CCS cannot be expected in the energy sector until the 2030s at least. Far too late for the urgent action needed.
Shell & Harbour Energy are partners in the Acorn project
Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 73 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.