Norwegian oil giant Equinor is teaming up with UK-headquartered energy company SSE for a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project attached to a gas-fired power station at Peterhead, in Scotland.

SSE Thermal confirmed this week it was partnering with Equinor to jointly develop what could be one of the UK’s first power stations equipped with carbon capture technology.

The new 900-megawatt gas-fired power station at Peterhead will include a CCS project designed to capture up to 1.5 million tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide — the equivalent of taking around 60 million cars off the road every year, according to SSE.

SSE highlighted this is 15% of the UK government’s current target to capture 10 million tpa of CO2 by 2030, with the plant anticipated to come online in 2026, subject to a final investment decision being made.

“This power station is a milestone for Scotland’s ambitions to create a decarbonised industrial cluster,” Equinor’s senior vice president for low carbon solutions, Grete Tveit, said.

“Projects such as these are critical for efforts to reach net zero, contributing to the UK’s goals to become a world leader in low carbon, and also helping ensure a just transition for industrial communities.”

Acorn CCS project

SSE noted the plant would be ideally placed for access to CO2 transport and storage infrastructure being developed through the Acorn CCS project.

The Acorn project will make use of legacy oil and gas infrastructure, with about 420 kilometres of offshore pipeline from the existing St Fergus gas hub having already been identified as suitable to reuse for CO2 transport.

This will see the captured CO2 transported about 100 kilometres offshore to be stored in rock formations deep below the North Sea. The Acorn project is expected to be storing at least 5 million tpa of CO2 by 2030.

Government backing

Both the Acorn and Peterhead CCS projects have secured government funding through the UK government’s £171 million ($309.7 million) Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge Fund, as part of Scotland’s Net Zero Infrastructure programme.

“Thanks to the UK Government’s £31 million investment into Scotland through the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge Fund, we’re enabling crucial projects like this one at Peterhead to play a huge part in our path to net zero,” UK government minister for Scotland, David Duguid, said.

“We are delighted to see this project move forward along with the Acorn CCS Project at St Fergus, which will connect industrial sites across East Scotland with access to world-class, safe carbon storage resources in rock deep below the North Sea.

"The work done here by SSE Thermal and Equinor underpins the UK Government’s vision for sustaining industry, safeguarding jobs, and building back greener.”

Green groups critical of CCS

Environmental campaigners have criticised plans for the Peterhead CCS project, claiming it will delay the transition from fossil fuels.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth Scotland claimed on Tuesday that the scheme was only aimed at delaying “the inevitable closure” of the gas-fuelled power station at Peterhead.

The group noted fossil fuel-based CCS technology is not currently capable of operating with zero emissions, claiming capture rates are often around 65% during initial deployment, gradually building to 90% capture after several years of operations.

“Scotland’s improved targets for emissions reductions by 2030 mean there is an urgent need to prioritise proven solutions such as renewables and electrification rather than backing the dangerous distraction of CCS which might not deliver,” Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner Jess Cowell said.

“Energy giants like SSE should be involving their workers and communities affected in planning for a proper transition away from fossil fuelled energy production in the North East.

"Carbon capture will only prolong the life of the oil and gas industry at exactly the time when we should be rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels.”