The study has estimated that the rock formation, known as Captain sandstone, east of the Moray Firth, could eventually hold up to 100 years' worth of carbon emissions from power stations in Scotland, using carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technologies which might be worth £10bn by 2025.
The report predicted the industry could grow to support 13,000 jobs in Scotland and another 14,000 elsewhere in the UK by 2020. Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS), the government-funded body that produced the report, said the industry could grow even further if provided with adequate support.
The results are particularly significant given that the EU has said that from the eight CCS technology plants it plans to fund under its demonstration programme, three of them must inject into saline aquifers such as the Captain Sandstone rock found beneath the Moray Firth.
Scottish Energy minister Jim Mather welcomed the results of the report, titled 'Progressing Scotland's CO2 storage opportunities'. But, he urged Westminster to help kick-start the industry north of the border by backing Scottish Power's Longannet project, the only remaining entrant in the government's own £1bn CCS technology funding programme.
However, environment campaigners are deeply sceptical about the report's findings and its predictions that CCS technology could produce 27,000 jobs and be worth £10bn by 2025. These estimates assume the UK can secure 10% of the global CCS market, that the CCS technology works and that existing CCS technology projects within the UK succeed.
Juliet Swann, head of projects and campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said recent FoE reports had raised profound doubts about the effectiveness of the CCS technology. Although there was a case to explore retrofitting CCS technology to existing coal-fired power stations to test whether it worked, FoE objected strongly to building new coal-fired stations given the urgent need to cut carbon emissions, not increase them.
Three Scottish power firms – which are among the 12 firms and agencies that funded the report – are competing for UK government and European funding for CCS technology demonstration projects, worth between €4.5bn (£3.9bn) and €9bn. Six bids for power stations in north-east England have also been made.
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