Opportunities in new industry
Carbon capture and storage could create 13,000 new jobs in Scotland a new scientific study claims.
Research body, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) says up to 100 years worth of CO2 from Scottish coal and gas fired power plants could be stored under the Moray Firth.
Scientists suggest CO2 could be stored between tiny grains of sand which make Captain Sandstone and buried more than half a mile under the sea floor in the Moray Firth.
The site SCCS studied is one of a number of sandstones filled with salt water – called saline aquifers – which makes up 95 per cent of the potential CO2 storage capacity in the North Sea.
A number of redundant oil and gas wells in the North Sea have also been identified as potential carbon storage sites.
SCCS, which is funded by the Scottish government and energy firms, suggests the wider carbon capture industry in Scotland could create at least 13,000 jobs by 2020.
Prof Eric Mackay, of SCCS, said: "The Captain Sandstone is just one of many rock formations filled with salt water in the central and northern North Sea.
"We have shown that this is a feasible site that could store massive amounts of CO2, helping the UK meet its targets for carbon emissions reduction.
"The future potential for this and other areas of the North Sea is immense."
Energy Minister Jim Mather said Scotland would have to move quickly if it is to capitalise on the economic opportunities of carbon capture and storage.
The UK government launched a national competition to build the first commercial scale CCS demonstration plants in 2007.
E.ON UK, BP and Peel Power all pulled out citing poor government support for the scheme, which left Scottish Power the only company left in the competition.
Scottish Power went on to launch the first UK pilot of carbon capture technology at the Longannet coal fired power station in Fife in 2009.
It says it is on track to have a full demonstration project up and running by 2014.
Last September Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, owners of Scottish Power, also announced plans to invest £3billion in renewable energy projects in Scotland by 2013.
Part of those plans is to establish a Carbon Capture and Storage Centre of Excellence in Scotland.
A total of 14 UK projects have applied for European Union funding of around EUR4.5 billion for carbon capture and storage and renewable energy projects the government announced last month.
Seven of these CCS projects are for coal-fired power stations and two from gas power plants.
Scottish and Southern Energy, Shell, Petrofac, Alstom, Drax, Peel Energy and National Grid have all made applications for the funding.
Ayrshire Power unveiled plans last year to build a new carbon capture and storage system for a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston, which drew objections from more than 14,000 people claiming it would be harmful to wildlife and the environment.
The government has until May 9 to assess the applications against the EU's New Entrant Scheme to then decide which projects it will put forward to the European Investment Bank.
Last year the UK government revealed it would invest £1billion to fund carbon capture and storage technology.