E.On UK, the company that runs Powergen, is currently in the process of creating the UK's first large pilot-scale carbon capture test rig.

Staff at the company’s power technology arm in Nottinghamshire have started work on converting their 1MW combustion test facility (CTF) to fire coal in pure oxygen and exhaust gas, a process generally known as oxyfuel combustion. The project team aims to produce CO2 pure enough to render the process viable as an industrial scale carbon capture prospect. Testing is expected to start in spring next year. If the project proves practically and commercially feasible, it could lead to a new generation of coal-fired power station in the UK with dramatically reduced CO2 emissions.

Dr Paul Golby, Chief Executive of E.On UK, said: “This project has the potential to be vital in the battle against climate change for both the UK and also for the world.

“A new generation of clean coal-fired power stations could offer security of supply, a new market for UK-mined coal and also a huge reduction in our CO2 emissions.”

E.On’s announcement follows hard on the heels of similar project developments by Swedish energy group Vatenfall, which has unveiled plans to build the world’s first carbon dioxide-free coal-fired facility, a 30 MWt unit at the Schwarze Pumpe plant in Germany, and Alstom, which has completed the third phase of the oxyfuel-fired CFB in its 3 MWt bituminous coal/ petcoke pilot plant at the Power Plant Laboratories in Connecticut, USA.

E.On UK is also working with a team at the university of Regina in Canada and with the CASTOR pan-European project, both of which are looking at CO2 scrubbing.

E.On UK is also looking at lowering its carbon emissions by investigating biomass power stations – such the Lockerbie scheme announced in October – and further co-firing at its existing coal-fired power stations.

The company has applied for consent to build a new gas-fired power station at the site of its former coal-fired station at Drakelow in Derbyshire, and has applied for permission to convert its Grain oil-fired station to gas.