If realized the project would represent a significant new step in providing clean energy to consumers, tackling carbon dioxide emissions and enhancing the recovery and utilization of known world energy resources, BP said in a press release.

The planned project – producing ‘decarbonized’ fuel and using it for power generation – would convert natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases, then use the hydrogen gas as fuel for a 350 megawatt power station. The carbon dioxide would then be exported to a North Sea oil reservoir for storage.

The project would aim to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by power generation by over 90%.

Initial engineering feasibility studies into the project have already been completed. The partners will now carry out further detailed front-end engineering design work with the aim of confirming the economic feasibility of the scheme. This work is forecast for completion in the second half of 2006.

This will allow a final investment decision to be taken next year, subject to which the project would then be expected to commence operation in 2009. If the scheme is fully realized it would involve a capital investment of $600million.

When fully operational, the project would be expected to capture and store around 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide each year at the BP-operated Miller oilfield, which is currently due to cease production in 2006/7. The scheme would also supply ‘carbon-free’ electricity to the equivalent of a quarter of a million UK homes.