Carbon Capture and Storage: A Global Landmark for Aberdeenshire?

Jane Weir, RTPI Scottish Young Planners’ Network Steering Group Member, and Planner in Development Management at Aberdeenshire Council reflects on a recent SYPN and Grampian Chapter event in Aberdeen on Carbon Capture and Storage.

Carbon Capture and Storage is the latest ambitious engineering initiative to store CO2 offshore in a bid to tackle the ever-increasing problem of climate change. As a significant feature of both SPP and NPF3, climate change is at the forefront of planning issues, policy and decision-making. This latest offshore infrastructure movement, pioneered by Shell, is inherently a planning matter due to its extensive EIA requirements, and the varied planning approvals required to undertake such a vast project. The SYPN and Grampian Chapter co-hosted to deliver a key presentation by Joost Van der Wal – Senior Engineer for Shell – in Aberdeen this month to showcase this project to planners.

Peterhead was selected as the location of this CCS project because it is abundant, acceptable and affordable. Planning consent is required by Aberdeenshire Council for the development of a new pipeline from this power station to the disused Golden Eye platform 100km offshore. This involves key sustainability practices by reusing existing infrastructure and extending the life of the Peterhead Power Plant; creating jobs and income, lowering fuel costs and complimenting the ever-growing wind energy industry. It also pioneers a new technology utilising resources to the maximum as the oil industry in Scotland reaches its senior years. Furthermore Joost asserted that it contributes to the competitiveness of Scotland as a whole as it will attract global investment and will be held as a forerunner of this project.

Echoing a paramount theme of collaborative planning and engagement from the RTPI Scotland Centenary Conference in Glasgow earlier in the month – Joost detailed the process and impact of community consultation and engagement. Questions from the audience raised this – showing how significant this process is. Feedback from Joost was that public impressions of the CSS project were positive and turn-out at events was high which successfully allowed Shell to transfer knowledge of CCS to the community. Joost claims that lessons are to be learned from every consultation event which is why more are planned before planning applications are submitted next year.

Drawing on essential Government support in terms of funding, this technology will advance the gas industry whilst securing a less polluted environment. Shell is working in conjunction with UK authorities to ensure efficiencies are met which will seek sustainable benefits. With planning applications expected to be submitted to Aberdeenshire Council early next year, it is anticipated that this will be a unique project that will consider many issues. The overarching principle of sustainability will be a key focus in terms of its contributions to planning policy for the future and environmental impacts will play a big role in planning determinations.  It will consider all branches of sustainability as it will be economically beneficial and environmentally friendly which will socially benefit the residents of the local area.

Key reflections on the night prompted a high interest in the uniqueness of the CCS project and a strong enthusiasm for the future of this industry in this locality. Planners from all sectors engaged with Joost after the presentation to seek his personal opinion on the project and throughout the event conversations focused on the intricacies of it, particularly the EIA process, public consultations, and the impact to the local Peterhead community, showing that this remains a primary planning consideration.  It was apparent this was an issue many planners were keen to follow the progress of as it would be a development of the first of its kind in Scotland. ‘Interesting and unique’; ‘insightful and informative’ appeared to be the recurring reflections of the night. Policy planners were considering how developments of this kind can be incorporated into the next local development plan; planners in development management questioned the EIA process for both onshore and offshore; and developers considered exciting new projects.

With much discussion on legacy in the 2014 Centenary year for RTPI Scotland, this case at Peterhead may very well be the legacy case for Carbon Capture and Storage. Global influence is also apparent through CCS as it intends to benchmark a global industry, tackle the global issue of climate change by offering a unique global solution. This indeed suggests that legacy will be created in Aberdeenshire that will be benefitted globally – this is duly noted in Shell’s headline for the Peterhead CSS project: ‘A global landmark for Aberdeenshire’! In the words of SYPN Chair Andrew Sim: “overall this was a perfect example of sustainability in action!”

Thanks goes to Joost who was very informative and approachable and the organisers Grampian Chapter and hosts Halliday Fraser Munro. Look out for this in 2015, folks!

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