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Longannet trials carbon dioxide capture as mudstones suggest new energy sources

Friday 29th May 2009
Longannet power station, Fife. Courtesy: sancnews.wordpress.com

As Iberdrola SA’s Scottish Power Ltd begins to capture carbon dioxide from a turbine in Scotland, the first time the technology has been tested on a U.K. coal-fired power station, UK and Scottish University research shows that shale gas in mudstones could also provide viable alternative energy sources.

The “small-scale” trial at the Longannet plant will capture gases from 1MW of the 2,304 megawatts of power, or enough for 2 million homes, Scottish Power said in a statement. The company aims to cover 330MW by 2014.

U.K. is pinning its hopes on carbon capture and storage (CSS) to reduce iemissions while still burning fossil fuels, and short-listed Scottish Power and the German utilities E.ON AG and RWE AG to receive government funding for a commercial-scale trial of the technology.

“There are over 50,000 fossil-fuel power stations in operation throughout the world,” says Nick Horler, Scottish Power CEO  “By proving CCS technology can be retrofitted to existing stations, we can begin to address the carbon lock-in from these power plants.”

Scottish Power will test only equipment that captures carbon dioxide gases using a 30-ton Aker Solutions ASA unit, leaving the storage element for later.

Energy companies aim eventually to pump  emissions underground for permanent storage. Ed Miliband, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, last month said no new coal-fired power stations could be built without adopting the new carbon technology.

National Grid Plc, which manages the U.K.’s natural-gas delivery network, has said it’s investigating devising a system of pipes to carry emissions from clusters of power plants in Scotland, near London and on Humberside and Teesside, all along the country’s east coast.

Silt and mudstones could provide alternate energy
Rocks under the North Sea can store the entire carbon-dioxide output of Scotland and northeast England for two centuries, according to a University of Edinburgh-led study published in May. 

This coincides with a new study from University of Leicester that reveals  an alternative to oil could be found in ancient sea deposits dating 300m years ago.

Shale gas sourced in mudstones in shallow water seaways could provide the future alternative to fuel modern society in the wake of demands to find new energy sources, according to the doctoral research.

The University of Leicester study reveals that an alternative to oil could be found in ancient sea deposits dating 300m years ago. Shale gas sourced in mudstones in shallow water seaways could provide the future alternative to fuel modern society in the wake of demands to find new energy sources, according to the doctoral research.

The mudstones, now exposed across central and northern England, contain up to 14% carbon. Jennifer Graham, a postgraduate researcher in the Department of Geology, University of Leicester, presents her research at the Festival of Postgraduate Research, and will demonstrate her significant findings titled: “Mudstones: their variability and hydrocarbon potential.

She says: “Fissile mudstones (shales) can yield three to four times as much gas as conventional sandstone reservoirs. The mudstones studied in this research were deposited in a shallow-water seaway that extended from Canada across Europe approximately 317m years ago.”

“This project has the involvement of Exxon Mobil and in the future could potentially attract interest from other companies working to find alternative and unconventional sources of energy as oil supplies decline.”

According to her study the understanding of these mudstones by exploring their character will be significant. Exploiting this ‘shale gas’ is a considerable challenge because the distribution and character of mudstones are not as well known as conventional sandstone gas reservoirs.

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