Britain’s biggest carbon capture project is to be built by Tata Chemicals Europe in Cheshire, north-west England, after securing government funding.
The scheme will mark a step forward in developing a carbon capture usage and storage industry in Britain — a technology described by the Committee on Climate Change, an advisory body, as “crucial” to hitting the UK’s newly adopted 2050 net zero emissions target.
The £16.7m demonstration project will capture 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from a gas-fired plant that was installed by Tata Chemicals in 2000 to provide steam and power for its manufacturing works in Winnington, where the Indian-owned company produces high purity sodium bicarbonate used in pharmaceuticals and food.
The captured carbon dioxide will then be purified, liquefied and used in the manufacturing process. Liquid CO2 is a key raw material used to make sodium bicarbonate.
The government will contribute £4.2m to the scheme after creating two funding programmes, collectively worth £44m, to encourage deployment of carbon capture technology.
Although the Cheshire scheme will be the largest to date in the UK when it is ready in 2021, is still only a demonstration project. The 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide captured will represent 11 per cent of the total emissions from the heat and power plant at the Winnington works, which also supplies other facilities and other local industrial businesses.
Britain is yet to develop a commercial-scale carbon capture project, which typically catch 1m or more tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Norway developed its first project at that scale in 1996.
Other demonstration projects in the UK include a scheme at Drax, the UK’s biggest power plant in North Yorkshire, which captures one tonne of carbon dioxide a day, although that is currently being re-released into the atmosphere as the company has yet to find a use for it.
The UK’s slow approach to carbon capture and storage was criticised this year in a report by MPs on the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee. The technology is seen as critical for dealing with emissions from heavy industries, such as cement, chemicals, steel, and oil refining. The BEIS committee warned that without the technology “many of our heavy industries could face closure”.
The taxpayer funding for the Tata Chemicals scheme was announced by Chris Skidmore, energy and clean growth minister, as one of a number of awards to 10 companies developing carbon capture usage and storage schemes in the UK. They included £3.8m towards an £18m clean gas project in Teesside and more than £4m towards an £8.1m facility in north-east Scotland.