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Carbon capture plant raises FoE hackles; At forefront of European technology, or just a waste?

Byline: Peter Collins

A SOUTH Wales power station has been given the go-ahead to test a carbon capture plant as part of the global effort to reduce the environmental damage of burning fossil fuels. Despite concerns expressed by some environmentalists, the development at Aberthaw power station has now been granted planning permission by councillors in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The plant will be built on a small site in the centre of the power station complex and operate for five years before being decommissioned.

It will deal with a small proportion of the carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions from the coal-burning power station and is seen as a way of testing the latest technology.

The plant will take 1% of the flue gas produced by the coal combustion process and treat it by first absorbing sulphur dioxide and then carbon dioxide. The proposal does not include measures for the long-term storage of the gases and is intended only to demonstrate the feasibility of the capture process. Construction of the plant is expected to take a year, with subsequent operation for a period of up to 30 months and a three-month period of decommissioning and removal.

The project should be completed and the plant removed by the end of 2013.

There is no intention to retain the plant for the long term.

Power station owners RWE Npower said it was committed to reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generated by 33% by 2015 over 2000 levels.

Carbon capture and storage is one of a range of options being investigated.

In his report to the council's planning committee, chief planner Rob Thomas said: "This plant will not in itself emit any gases to the atmosphere.

"While the current proposal is for a pilot scheme that will treat only a very small proportion of total emissions from the power station, it nevertheless represents the forefront of European carbon capture technology."

Keith Stockdale, spokesman for Barry and Vale Friends of the Earth, said his group was concerned that the information was badly incomplete.

"Because it covers gaseous wastes, the development is exempt from much waste management legislation, but it is still waste management rather than any productive or monitoring process," he said. "Though it is a 'pilot' plant, it would extract 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

We question RWE's plan to discharge this gas to the atmosphere as waste, rather than fixing it or using it.

"Since RWE submitted the application, an authoritative independent report has been issued that warns over possible health and environmental dangers from the amine-chemicals that are to be used."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 11, 2010
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