Carbon sink plan

National Grid is investigating piping greenhouse gases released by power plants and refineries near London to undersea storage sites so they won’t add to global warming, according to Bloomberg.

The manager of Britain’s natural gas-delivery network found the Thames Estuary may be suitable for laying pipelines to move carbon-dioxide gas toward depleted offshore wells, Director of Network Operations Chris Train said in an interview. In the north, the Teesside industrial hub also is being considered.

The U.S. and Europe together have earmarked as much as 14 billion in aid to develop technology to trap and bury the waste gas for eons, which in the London area may benefit utilities E.ON AG and RWE AG and refinery operator Petroplus Holding AG.

Pilot projects have developed slowly because of potential gas-transport costs. London-based National Grid is expanding its range of possible routes beyond Scotland and Humberside, banking on government support and its own unique position of already operating 4,600 miles of gas pipelines in Britain.

A carbon-capture system might help the government as well as industrial polluters to meet international greenhouse-gas agreements without having to buy emissions permits from traders.

The Thames river area near the country’s financial capital is home to large producers of greenhouse gases.

Duesseldorf-based E.ON, Germany’s largest utility, has drawn up plans for carbon capture at a new coal-burning power plant at Kingsnorth, just south of the Thames river. RWE AG’s Npower unit runs a coal-fired power station on the banks of the Thames. Petroplus has refineries by the Thames and on Teesside.

Train declined to name companies National Grid has spoken with about the plans, beyond saying “we are talking with parties in both those areas” of England. “It’s pretty embryonic at this stage.”

Carbon capture and storage, commonly called CCS, will contribute a maximum of 10 percent of emission reductions needed globally in 2020 under expected greenhouse-gas trading programs, or 240 million metric tons of gas, New Carbon Finance, a London- based research company, estimated last month.

National Grid said in February it was drawing up plans for a 2-billion pound ($3 billion) network of carbon-dioxide pipes in the Humber area of northeast England. Last week, the energy regulator, Ofgem, began a public consultation to investigate the viability of National Grid plans to turn over 300 kilometers (186 miles) of natural gas pipes in Scotland to transport CO2.

“There’s a number of areas that also have similar opportunities,” including the Thames Gateway, and Teesside, “which is more refinery-based,” Train said. “There are the economies of scale and opportunity that are afforded by the clustering of coal-fired plants.”

The company is studying converting existing natural gas pipes for CO2 transportation, as in Scotland, and to build new networks, such as in the Humber area. So long as the government introduces clear rules, construction of pipes can start “quite quickly,” Train said.

The European Union has pledged about 1.05 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of cash for CCS and as much as 6 billion euros worth of carbon credits in grants, assuming a price of 20 euros a ton for the securities.