Environmental campaigners are calling for plans for an additional gas-fired power station at Peterhead to be scrapped after SSE admitted the project could increase climate-damaging pollution.

The shocking admission was made in planning documents from SSE responding to environmental regulator SEPA’s questioning of the proposals. In February 2022 SSE and Equinor submitted a planning application to build a new gas fired power station in addition to the existing plant at Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

SSE conceded that “should both of the plants operate simultaneously this will result in an emissions increase from approx. 1.29MTCO2e to 1.54MTCO2e. This would represent 10.7% of the Scottish Carbon Budget in 2034”

The current Peterhead power station has already been the single most polluting site in Scotland for several years belching out over 1 million tonnes of climate harming gases annually and worsening the climate emergency.

The Peterhead project was further undermined by the failure of the Acorn carbon capture project to secure funding from the UK Government as part of its ‘powering up Britain’ strategy, announced on Thursday, despite CCS being at the heart of that plan.

The revelation comes shortly after another damning UN report which highlights the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels, but the proposed Peterhead plant has a lifespan beyond 2045.

Peterhead could become ‘even greater climate disaster’

Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner Alex Lee said

“SSE’s expansion plans for Peterhead could make Scotland’s biggest polluter into an even greater disaster for our climate.

“SEPA’s questions have forced SSE to admit that their fossil fuelled plans risk increasing climate pollution for years to come, swallowing up huge chunks of our limited carbon budgets and endangering our climate commitments. This admission is an enormous embarrassment for the energy giant and must force any supporters of the project to think again.

“Any plan that locks Scottish households into relying on expensive fossil gas for decades to come will only benefit profiteering oil companies at immeasurable cost to our climate.

“As the UN warns once again of the urgent need to get off fossil fuels, Scotland should be transitioning to powering our lives with renewable energy, not building new oil and gas infrastructure.

“The Scottish Government needs to re-think its energy strategy, end the fantasy that technologies like carbon capture are going to solve the climate crisis, and instead focus on delivering a just transition to a renewable energy economy.

“With full power to determine whether the new Peterhead gas plant should go ahead, and with this clear admission that it will increase climate harm, Humza Yousaf’s new Government must show real climate leadership by rejecting it when the time comes.”

Peterhead Carbon Capture claims called into question

SSE and Equinor claim that they will add Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology to the plant at a later date but the whole project relies on the still unfunded and stalling Acorn Project to transport and store any carbon captured under the North Sea.

SSE refused to answer SEPA’s questions about how efficient the plant would be and for them whether the developers could substantiate predicted carbon capture rates. Without this information Aberdeenshire Councillors will be unable to fulfil their statutory duty to act in a way best calculated to contribute to emissions reductions when the planning application comes before them.

Carbon capture and storage technology has a long and troubled history and has consistently failed to deliver on projected emissions reductions. The Peterhead project has been put forward despite advice to the Scottish Government from leading climate scientists and energy experts that CCS is an unnecessary technology in the power sector.

Recent evidence has come to light that the longest running CCS plant in the world, the Boundary Dam coal power and CCS plant in Canada, was capturing at a rate of 44% in 2022 compared to projected rates of 90% due to a series of breakdowns. The project cost $1.5 billion Canadian dollars, relies on coal and uses the carbon captured to extract more oil.

Notes to Editors

Details of the application and responses to the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit.

SEPA questions based on initial application from SSE
Is is in the Consultation responses section with the Publication date is 8 August 2022
Document name: “SEPA response – Peterhead CCGT dated 1 July 2022”

SSE’s letter in response to SEPA questioning.
Is it in the Application documents section, with the document has the publication date of 20th
Feb 2023. Admission on climate pollution is on p11.
Document name: “Peterhead Low Carbon CCGT Power Station proposal – ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – February 2023”

SEPA confirmation of their holding objection to the project.
This is in the Consultation responses section with the Publication date is 29 March 2023

Acorn project fails to get priority funding status – Thursday 30 March

A 2022 report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis looked at 13 carbon capture projects – over half of total global capacity – and found CCS was “wildly unrealistic as a climate solution” and found that “using carbon capture as a greenlight to extend the life of fossil fuel power plants is a significant financial and technical risk.”

A 2021 report from climate experts at the Tyndall centre found that CCS technology is not a viable option for the rapid emissions cuts required in energy over the crucial years to 2030.

Leading Climate Scientist Professor Kevin Anderson said giving evidence to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee in March 2022 noted that: “The first of “the target-setting criteria” in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2019 is to not exceed “the fair and safe Scottish emissions budget [for] “holding of the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre- industrial levels.” Set specifically within this context, A) there is now little to no role for CCS in either power generation or blue hydrogen production”

The World’s Only Coal Carbon Capture Plant Is Regularly Breaking

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.