The British government plans to open its carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration programme to gas-fired power plants in a bid to revive the enterprise, which is flagging somewhat after two of the major entrants in the competition that is the first stage dropped out. It hopes the measure will ultimately help the UK to stay at the forefront of CCS technology development.

The government has committed to funding a total of four CCS demonstration projects as part of plans to decarbonise the UK’s economy by combating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

However the government says that recent analysis and recommendations from the Climate Change Committee have persuaded it that the inclusion of gas-fired plants in the scheme would be beneficial.

“The UK looks set to rely on gas for years to come,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne. “We won’t be able to take the carbon out of all gas plants overnight, but we hope to support the process by investment in new technology now.”

Opening the funding process to gas-fired projects could result in the UK hosting one of the first ever commercial-scale CCS projects on a gas fired plant in the world, added Huhne.

The government recently announced that up to £1 billion of funding would be made available to the first CCS demonstration project. Only one bidder remains in the competition to win this funding after E.On announced last month that it would not be proceeding with the construction of a new coal-fired plant in Kingsnorth, Kent.

The move by E.On was a blow to the government’s CCS demonstration programme, which is a cornerstone of its climate change policy.

The CCS demonstration funds are now likely to be awarded to Scottish Power’s Longannet project, provided that the utility can agree terms with the government.

“In the long run carbon capture will help provide us with a secure and affordable energy system and we want to encourage companies with projects on both gas and coal-fired power stations to come forward,” said Huhne.

He added: “We are determined to ensure the UK continues to be at the forefront of CCS development – and this sets us on course to lead the world in the development of CCS on gas as well as coal.”