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£100m wasted on cancelled carbon capture project

January 21, 2017

By Paul Homewood






We no doubt remember when Ed Davey announced three years ago that two carbon capture projects, Peterhead and the White Rose scheme at Drax, had won the £1bn competition to develop the technology.


Last year, the government took the decision to cancel funding for the projects, as they appeared to have little prospect of getting off the ground or giving value for money. At the time, George Osborne took most of the flak.

In fact, the writing was on the wall when Drax themselves pulled out of the project the year before, though they dishonestly blamed the decision on the withdrawal of subsidies for their biomass operation.


However a new report from the National Audit Office reveals that the programme had been badly managed from the outset by DECC.

The NAO also report that £100m has already been wasted on White Rose and Peterhead, and that this is the second government led CCS scheme to have gone belly up:



A new report from the National Audit Office has unveiled that around £100 million was spent on a competition for developing carbon capture technology before it was scrapped.

The project would have seen emissions from heavy industry stored permanently underground, however, according to the NAO, a failure by the UK government’s energy department to agree the long term costs of the competition with the Treasury led to its cancellation.

The carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition was the second bid by the UK government to support schemes that capture pollution from power stations or industry and store it underground – potentially helping meet greenhouse gas targets.

Two bidders in the running for the project included the White Rose consortium in North Yorkshire which planned to build a new coal plant with the technology, and Shell’s scheme in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, which planned to fit CCS to an existing gas plant operated by SSE.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: "The department has now tried twice to kick-start CCS in the UK, but there are still no examples of the technology working.

"There are undoubtedly challenges in getting CCS established, but the department faced an uphill battle as a result of the way it ran the latest competition.

"Not being clear with HM Treasury about what the budget is from the start would hamper any project, and caused particular problems in this case where the upfront costs are likely to be high."

He added: "The department must learn lessons from this experience if it is to stand any chance of ensuring the first CCS plants are built in the near future."

A spokesman for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: "We haven’t closed the door to carbon capture and storage technology in the UK, but decisions had to be taken to control government spending and protect consumer bills.

"This is why the government ended the funding for the CCS competition, and ensured taxpayers were protected from significant costs when the competition closed."

This is yet another example of how taxpayer money has been wasted, with no proper controls, in the quest for a low carbon future.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    January 21, 2017 12:44 pm

    I blame the Graun for lying by omission, when reporting the Boundary Dam project.

    No mention of massive parasitic load and 30% de-rating.

  2. CheshireRed permalink
    January 21, 2017 1:13 pm

    Can I just ask a question: how the hell can this ‘competition’ have cost one hundred million pounds? How does ANY such project cost £100 million? What was the money spent on? How are such costs justified? What events / meetings / seminars / PR and so on actually costs £100 bloody million? Did they hire George Clooney as compere and get Damien Hirst to design a diamond-encrusted lump of ‘hi-carbon’ coal as a free gift to every seminar guest? How is it even possible to spend £100 million and get literally nothing back for your money whatsoever? I’m actually staggered, one hundred f*****g million and absolutely zero end product? Whose been sacked for this? Whose been disciplined? Seriously, wtf? I cannot get my head around this in any way at all. I may need to go for a lie down.

    • Edmonton Al permalink
      January 21, 2017 1:38 pm

      I’ll second that…………..It is fraudulent

      • Bloke down the pub permalink
        January 21, 2017 6:26 pm

        And some people wonder why the big energy companies support the cagw boondoggle.

    • January 21, 2017 2:11 pm

      Many documents were produced by the companies involved, these are claimed to be valuable knowledge, but a quick skim through them suggests that they are typical bid documents of engineering companies, a lot of plausible-sounding words, diagrams and figures, but little suggesting any meaty modelling or analysis work, i.e. little of any lasting value.

  3. January 21, 2017 1:27 pm

    Surely our highly paid bureaucrats can’t have mismanaged this. We all thought that the DECC bureaucrats had gone, but no, they were just moved into BEIS where they could carry on wasting money. The bureaucratic swamp needs draining fast and all those useless bureaucrats should be fired. Unfortunately with May in charge it’s not going to happen and they will continue to be overpaid, underworked, given gold-plated pensions and lots of gongs.

  4. AlecM permalink
    January 21, 2017 1:54 pm

    CCS was never economically practicable for low CO2 Climate Sensitivity. It was always a security blanket should real CO2 CS become dangerous.

    Declaration: I worked on the two major international CCS programmes 20 years ago.

    • Edmonton Al permalink
      January 22, 2017 1:39 pm

      How about this?

      • AlecM permalink
        January 23, 2017 9:18 am

        The 1 deg C no feedback CS is obtained by assuming the ratio of OLR (-18 deg C) to surface exitance (+15 deg C) is Earth’s emissivity.

        That claim by Cess was an astonishing scientific ‘mistake’ because emissivity calculations require the same emission temperature. It also generated (OLR – surface exitance) extra energy input than reality, also 35 K GHE. Neither of these is true either.

        In reality, if there were no clouds, CO2 CS would be ~ 0.85 K. Clouds as part of the water cycle reduce this globally to near zero: the underlying factor is the unique self-absorption physics of 16 – 23 micron water vapour IR.

        The proof of the above is the use by GISS of negative convection, which does not exist, in their 1976 paper purporting to confirm Cess’ claims. The 3-D models replaced ths with an incorrect Kirchhoff’s Law calculation, now quietly being dropped by te Met Office now Slingo has left.

        Biggest science fraud in History, as any professional will confirm.

      • Jack Broughton permalink
        January 23, 2017 5:57 pm

        The Radiative Forcing Factor is certainly and almost admitted by IPCC to be a fiddle factor. When I first found that there were models that described climate change, I thought that these people had solved the complex equations of radiant heat transfer through an absorbing and scattering medium and was quite excited. When I read the IPCC technical report and found they had assessed the atmosphere using the Beer Lambert Laws (as described by AlecM above) I was shocked as this is a 19th C model. Then they ignored the well known coupling between carbon dioxide and water vapour that reduces the flux further than the “Grey gas” approximation.

        They admitted that they had no understanding of clouds, which are probably the main global balancing force and assumed that these remained constant if the atmosphere warmed or cooled. This rubbish was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the believers then fed into computer models as truth.

        A committee decided what weighting to put on the radiation effects of all of the gases that affect the heat to earth and this produced the fiddle factors (RFF) that drive the models. To make it even worse, they invented a feedback mechanism that doubled the fiddle factor first thought of. The information that they used could equally easily have predicted global cooling if they had wanted it to!

  5. Ian Magness permalink
    January 21, 2017 1:54 pm

    When the history of the ludicrous efforts by Britain to mitigate global warming is written, the whole CCS fiasco will rank second only to the Drax type pellet (and, indirectly, forest) burning in its combination of utter stupidity, incredible cost and zero advantage for the environment.
    The whole concept of “capturing carbon” and pumping it, in some cases, hundreds of miles then pumping it again, perhaps thousands of feet underground, has been beyond ridicule from the start. We take less care with nuclear waste!
    Heads should roll but, of course, they won’t.
    Post-Brexit and Trump, let’s hope Mother Theresa of Westminster takes a hard look at this, realises what nonsense it is, and buried the whole concept for good.

  6. January 21, 2017 2:16 pm

    Here is my CCS proposal: take 10 tons of coal, dump 9 of those tons in the sea, generate electricity in the normal way from 1 ton. RESULT: I’ve captured and stored a very large amount of carbon, and generated some electricity.

    • TinyCO2 permalink
      January 21, 2017 2:40 pm

      climanrecon – what a poor plan, nobody would go for that. What you should do is take many millions of tonnes (metric to prove that you’re serious) of coal over 20 years and dump much of it in the sea in the first few years as you burn coal, thus being able to sequester say 85% of carbon used in the business. 100% would be a bit fishy. Then over the coming years, reduce the mined coal (as proof that you’re saving the planet) and recover the coal you dumped in the sea – saying that a) you’re removing pollution from the sea and b) using industrial waste to generate energy. The very high numbers and the time scale used will hide the fraud until the subsidies run out and you’ve banked enough money to buy your own island. If you do a really good job, you’ll be able to be an environmental hero and avoid paying any tax. Decry any nosy members of the public or journalists as deniers, in the pay of Exxon trying to stop a real solution to climate change. By the time the billion pennies drop, you’ll be long gone and set for life.

      • 1saveenergy permalink
        January 21, 2017 8:44 pm

        @ Tiny CO2
        Is your real name Ed Davey ?

  7. Dung permalink
    January 21, 2017 3:05 pm

    So the planet, left to its own devices and with no education, no experts and no cash can do CCS 24/7 with 100% success.The government, uses £100 million of funny money (AKA our money) to prove that CCS just can not be made to work?
    Sometimes only the worst possible language is up to the job. Who the fuck is running this circus?

  8. Athelstan permalink
    January 21, 2017 3:19 pm

    Thank you Paul, I am grateful, this is your space after all but you’re quite right – it did need saying again and in bigger highlights.

  9. January 21, 2017 4:48 pm

    The White Rose scheme claimed to be able to capture 90% of the CO2 from its coal burning, and the govt thought this was OK, so it must also be OK to retain 10% of the coal generating capacity … which incidentally was producing 10.49 GW at peak demand time last night, around 21% of peak demand.

  10. John Palmer permalink
    January 21, 2017 5:57 pm

    There you go… easy, isn’t it? Waste £100’s of millions of taxpayer cash, undermine a nation’s energy system and do you get sent to gaol…. no, you get Knighted!!! Arise, Sir Potato-Ed.
    Truly the loonies were running the asylum then. (And some may still!).

    • dennisambler permalink
      January 22, 2017 12:38 pm

      you get Knighted!!! Arise, Sir Potato-Ed…………and invited onto the Advisory Board of the Grantham Institute, to pontificate with Bob Ward, Nick Stern, NGO chiefs and help feed more nonsense into the Climate Change Committee via Grantham Professors Fankhauser and Hoskins.

  11. Dennis Clark permalink
    January 21, 2017 6:33 pm

    Having worked with gas compression for re-injection I am aware of the power requirement and it is horrendous. And that is only the start. Transmission of the gas to the injection site, on site storage and finding the right formation into which to inject. And think about the objections to fracking,this would be all over again .

    • Russ Wood permalink
      January 26, 2017 9:51 am

      -And did anyone in the organisation bring up Lake Nyos? Probably not.

  12. Graeme No.3 permalink
    January 22, 2017 11:34 pm

    What you need is an abandoned coal mine or similar. Seal the entrance except for a pipe leading into it. Pump your CO2 (for a fee) through that pipe.
    Meanwhile have an exit pipe elsewhere which “prevents the pressure buildup and eliminates the chances of mini earthquakes etc.”. You can truthfully say that the environment doesn’t suffer at all.
    You could keep this going for as long as the subsidies keep coming.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      January 22, 2017 11:36 pm

      Alternatively start a rumour that CO2 is used for FRAKKING. Within hours the social media will be alive with hysterical scrams that underground storage of CO2 must stop immediately.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        January 22, 2017 11:37 pm

        Screams? Well social media isn’t noted for its accuracy.

  13. manicbeancounter permalink
    January 24, 2017 12:19 am

    I am just glad that the second competition was cancelled. It may have cost £100m, but would have cost taxpayers £1,000m if it has gone ahead. Further consumer subsidies would have been £3.9bn or £8.9bn over 15 years, depending on which of the two contenders won the competition. This to put in a hole 1 Mt or 2 Mt of CO2 per year. Cost per tonne of CO2 stored would be £264 (US$330, A$435) and £300 (US$374, A$490).
    I did a ballpark calculation of how much it would cost if China and India adopted CCS on all their coal-fired power stations. Instead of a consumer subsidy between £105 and £172 Mwh in these experimental schemes, I assumed just US$100. For China the subsidy might be $700bn a year, or 6% of GDP, whilst for India, a $240bn a year subsidy would come in at around 12% of GDP. The only thing they have to do now is find a great big hole.

  14. January 24, 2017 6:24 pm

    Anyone even slightly surprised that an ed davy, ‘larf-a-minute’ green imbecilic scheme has folded? These clowns should be locked up to protect the rest of us from ‘Gweeny’ dreams, and they should NEVER again be allowed to achieve ANY ‘power’.

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