Brussels, 14 March 2006
Tomorrow will see the inauguration of the world’s largest pilot plant for demonstrating and validating new technology for the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from conventional power stations. The pilot at the Elsam power station near Esbjerg, Denmark is the result of research carried out with the support of the EU’s Research Framework Programme. Carbon capture and storage technology offers a bridge from our current fossil fuel-based energy system to one that has near-zero carbon emissions. This pilot plant is an important part of research that will help develop better processes for carbon capture, increase public acceptance of the technology and achieve a major reduction in its costs.
Commenting on the inauguration, European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “The European Commission is committed to a low-carbon future. The research policy of today is the energy policy of tomorrow, which is why projects like CASTOR have such an important contribution to make. By developing technologies for carbon capture and storage, we can reduce emissions in the medium-term as we move to large scale use of renewable, carbon-free energy sources.”
By signing the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has committed itself to reducing CO2 emissions. However, with projections showing that fossil fuels will continue to provide about 85% of our energy for the foreseeable future, it will be difficult to achieve these reductions through switching to other forms of energy, such as renewable (solar, wind, wave, biomass) or nuclear. Therefore carbon capture technology can help reduce emissions now, as the world works to move towards an energy economy with almost no carbon emissions. This technology is a perfect complement to the hydrogen-based strategy as it can produce CO2-free hydrogen from fossil fuels.
Carbon capture and storage works by capturing carbon dioxide emissions as they are produced by power stations and then storing them underground, so that they cannot interact with the atmosphere and produce the greenhouse effect. They are best applied to large facilities such as coal power plants and oil refineries. The CASTOR project, funded from the Sixth Framework Programme for Research, is unveiling the first pilot plant to test how these technologies work in practice. It is hoped that this demonstration project will allow scientists to improve the technological processes involved in carbon capture, provide a means for better understanding of the process among the public and consolidate Europe’s position as a leader in this scientific field.
While the plant at Elsam will be the first such pilot, the field of carbon capture and storage is a long-term priority for the European Commission and the sector as a whole. Last December saw the launch of a European Technology Platform on Zero Emissions Fossil Fuel Power Plants, which brings together all those with an interest in the development of this technology, from across industry and including environmental groups, to establish a strategic research agenda.
The EU will also be looking to work with international partners, as shown by the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Government on Near Zero Emission Power Plant Technology.