Claims by the UK coalition government that they were prepared to fund the Longannet Carbon Storage project to the tune of £1 billion have been called into question by a leading carbon storage expert.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh has claimed that official documentation demonstrates that the figure on offer from the UK Treasury was not £1 billion but was in fact closer to £600 million.
The academic who is an expert in the field of Carbon Storage also rubbished claims by UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne that the pipeline that would have transported the carbon emissions from the coal fired power station was too long.
Speaking on Newsnight Scotland Professor Haszeldine insisted that the pipeline was already in place and was in fact an advantage to the project.
He said: “We know from the documentation, which is now available, that technically this project stacks up, technically the storage site works, the pipeline works and capture plan could work and the whole speaking by Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy, about the pipeline being too long is total rubbish.”
Describing Treasury rules as “unfair” he added:
“There has been a lot of talk about how much this project will cost over the past two or three days and we now know how much this project will cost because we can read the documentation. The figures in there are pretty clear that the project would cost £1050 million which is about the sum of money on the table.
“But then the Treasury adds another £300 million because it says you might go over budget, and it adds another 15 per cent on top of that because it says we don’t actually believe you’ve got your costs accurate.”
The professor’s revelations were described by First Minister Alex Salmond as “astonishing”. The SNP leader insisted that the claims by the UK coalition required a “great deal more explanation”. Mr Salmond described the Carbon Storage technology as “world leading” and “planet saving” and called the decision by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition “a tragedy”.
Mr Salmond described the one off investment needed in order to complete the project as being just a tenth of one year’s take from Scotland’s oil and gas revenues.
Speaking on Radio Scotland (1hr 34 mins) the First Minister said: “If it turns out that, as Professor Haszeldine indicated last night, that the offer was not what we were told it was then I think there is going to be a lot of fingers pointed at the London Treasury for basically sabotaging one of the great technological chances for Scotland to develop its energy potential.”
Local SNP MSP Bill Walker has now demanded a full explanation from UK ministers as to why the plug was pulled on the scheme. The Dunfermline MSP, who had earlier written to UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne calling on him to press ahead with the Longannet plans, said there were now serious questions to be answered as to why the project was not going ahead.
Mr Walker said:
“This is a scandalous betrayal of Fife and Scotland by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government. By turning their backs on the massive potential that a carbon capture plant at Longannet would bring in terms of jobs and investment, Westminster has denied Scotland an opportunity to become a world leader in carbon capture technology.
“This would have been a truly ground-breaking project, with the potential for becoming a major hub for exporting cutting-edge clean carbon technology around the globe – with all the jobs, investment and long-term benefits to Fife and Scotland that would bring.
“Instead, we are left with mealy mouthed excuses from Westminster politicians which don’t add up and which have even been dismissed as ‘total rubbish’ by one of the leading experts in the field.
“There has been a lot of talk about how much this project would cost, but the simple fact is that – despite UK Treasury attempts to muddy the waters by suggesting it would need more – Longannet needed Westminster to put just over £1 billion on the table. The Treasury’s suggestions that more would be needed amount to nothing more than funny money.
“We now need proper answers from Mr Huhne and his colleagues as to why Longannet has been ditched. And the role of Scottish Secretary Michael Moore also has to be seriously questioned, because under Mr Moore, the job of Scottish Secretary has degenerated into being the publicly-paid Secretary of State against the Scottish Government.
“It would be unforgivable if as a consequence he has neglected this major issue for Fife and Scotland, and Mr Moore also now needs to give us a full and proper explanation as to his role in the betrayal of Longannet.”
Professor Stuart Haszeldine questions Westminster claims on funding