Sat, Apr 18, 2009 - Page 6 News List

UK gas network may be employed for carbon dioxide


National Grid Plc is investigating piping greenhouse gases released by power plants and refineries near London to undersea storage sites so they won’t add to global warming.

The manager of Britain’s natural gas-delivery network found the Thames Estuary could be used for pipelines to move carbon-dioxide gas toward depleted offshore wells, Network Operations director Chris Train said. In the north, the Teesside industrial hub is also being considered.

The US and Europe together have earmarked as much as US$14 billion in aid to develop technology to trap and bury the waste gas for eons, which in the London area may benefit utilities E.ON AG and RWE AG and refinery operator Petroplus Holding AG.

Pilot projects have developed slowly because of potential gas-transport costs. London-based National Grid is expanding its range of possible routes beyond Scotland and Humberside, banking on government support and its own unique position of already operating 7,400km of gas pipelines in Britain.

A carbon-capture system might help the government as well as industrial polluters to meet international greenhouse-gas agreements without having to buy emissions permits from traders.

The Thames river area near the country’s financial capital is home to large producers of greenhouse gases.

Train declined to name companies National Grid had spoken with about the plans beyond saying “we are talking with parties in both those areas” of England. “It’s pretty embryonic at this stage.”

Carbon capture and storage, commonly called CCS, will contribute a maximum of 10 percent of emission reductions needed globally in 2020 under expected greenhouse-gas trading programs, or 240 million tonnes of gas, New Carbon Finance, a London-based research company, estimated last month.

“The role of CCS will only be minor given the relative high cost of doing CCS projects prior to 2020,” said Milo Sjardin, an analyst in New York for the firm.

The rest of the reductions would come from increased fuel efficiency at factories, fuel switching and other abatement efforts, he said.

National Grid, which earns a regulated rate of return on its energy networks, is an “ideal” candidate to move the gas around Britain, provided the government sets rules that enable companies to make money by helping bury carbon dioxide, Train said.

“One of the barriers for the development of carbon capture to date is having the right incentive framework in place,” he said.

While National Grid’s focus is land-based pipes, “if it meant developing a project, we wouldn’t shy away from doing the offshore” leg of the transportation too, Train said.

The company is vying to control the transportation side of the unproven technology, which the International Energy Agency has said will be vital to meet the UN’s goal of cutting greenhouse-gas output by 50 percent by mid-century.

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