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Hunterston site

Frequently asked questions

Why Hunterston?
Peel Energy and DONG Energy examined over 44 sites throughout the UK between 2006 to 2009 and Hunterston was determined to be the most suitable. The Hunterston site has been set aside for industrial development under the North Ayrshire Local Plan (IND4) since the 1970’s. Its proximity to a deep water port allows the transportation of large power station components, coal and biomass, as well as providing undersea pipeline and shipping opportunities for transporting carbon dioxide to offshore storage sites. The location of the site in relation to the existing electricity supply network and rail infrastructure, as well as proximity to cooling water, is a further asset. The existing Clydeport coal handling facilities currently feed a number of other Scottish and UK power stations. The construction of a power station close to the existing coal import facilities eliminates the need to transport millions of tonnes of coal a year across Scotland and the UK.

Why not build the plant nearer the population centres that need the energy?
As indicated above Hunterston is an ideal location for such a power station. A key requirement for a power station of this kind is the ability to handle many millions of tonnes of fuel and other bulk materials each year without having an unacceptable impact upon local amenity due to excessive road and rail traffic. The Hunterston site offers an existing coal handling terminal serviced by one of the UK’s deepest sea ports. There is the potential to minimise road transport of coal and other bulk materials by utilising the existing port infrastructure and rail freight terminal.

Would the development cause environmental damage?
In preparing its plans for a multi fuel power station at Hunterston, Ayrshire Power (APL) has undertaken a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed development. This EIA covers both the construction and the operating phase of the power station.

The results of the EIA are set out in the Environmental Statement (ES) which forms part of APL’s planning application made to Scottish Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. The EIA has examined the impact of the proposed development on a full range of environmental matters which were agreed with the Scottish Government and other statutory consultees through a formal scoping process.

Mitigation of potential impacts is an important aspect of the design and EIA process, and comprises the measures proposed through the consideration of alternatives, physical design, project management or operation to avoid, reduce or compensate for any significant adverse effects on people and the environment resulting from the proposed development. The project team has considered mitigation as an integral part of the overall project design process supported by the EIA, such that residual environmental impacts are reduced to an acceptable level and/or fully mitigated.

How can you build a plant on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)?
Details of our proposals in this regard and the impacts of the proposed power station on the Portencross Coast SSSI are set out in our Environmental Statement. As a result of detailed consultation with the relevant statutory consultees, the design of the proposed power station has been altered so as to minimise the impact on the designated features and appropriate mitigating measures are proposed to maintain the overall integrity of the SSSI.

APL has included a ‘Landuse Plan’ for Clydeport’s Hunterston Coal Terminal in its planning application that extends beyond the power station. This Landuse Plan shows the development over a large part of the Portencross Coast SSSI. How can APL justify development in this protected site?
The Landuse Plan, which has been prepared by the site owner, Clydeport, has been included within the power station submission in order to demonstrate that, if consented and constructed, the proposed power station would not compromise the ability for the rest of the Hunterston site to reach its full potential as designated in the North Ayrshire Local Plan and National Planning Framework.

APL has only applied for permission to develop a multi fuel power station and related activities within the planning application ‘red line’ boundary. Permission is not being sought for the development of the other infrastructure identified in the Landuse Plan. Consequently the potential impacts of such developments have not been considered within the power station EIA.

Would this plant raise any health and safety issues for local residents?
The plant would be built to the most exacting engineering standards and operated in accordance with strict safety management systems, thereby addressing any health and safety concerns. The power station would be fitted with the latest emissions abatement equipment such that residual emissions would be within the latest European emissions standards. The plant and its operations would be licensed and monitored by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure compliance with all relevant environmental and safety legislation respectively.

Fairlie is already affected by coal dust from the coal terminal. How can you guarantee we won’t face pollution issues from this station?
The power station is designed to comply with the latest emission standards and is required to implement Best Available Technology in order to obtain its operating license from SEPA. Its ongoing operation will also be monitored by SEPA to ensure that it remains fully compliant.

Clydeport, the operator of Hunterston’s bulk terminal, has already implemented a number of measures to minimise the effects of dust including: new dust suppression systems, onsite dampening of roads and wheels to prevent dust lift off, further mandatory onsite wheel washes before truck drivers leave the site, a redesigned train loading facility to reduce spillage from trains, and a dust monitoring program, introduced in accordance with SEPA regulations, incorporating nine high-tech dust monitoring stations, whose results are recorded and examined monthly.

APL would implement necessary measures to ensure the construction and operations meet the required standards from the start, and continue to meet its ongoing obligations as required under the consent and operating license.

Would you be using harmful chemicals on the site?
The proposed power station would use a range of process chemicals in addition to the bulk fuels and materials. These chemicals have been assessed as part of the EIA and APL will only be allowed to use materials which have been approved for use under its operating permit by SEPA and also by the Health and Safety Executive. Any chemicals used will pose no threat to the public or the environment.

How can we be sure the plant would be decommissioned in a safe and appropriate way?
Decommissioning plans will be drawn up as part of the permitting process for the plant, and will be scrutinised and approved by SEPA prior to an operating permit being issued. Safe decommissioning would also be a condition of any consent received.

Would major improvements be required to the existing road and rail infrastructure if the power station goes ahead?
Coal and biomass fuel supplies would be delivered to the proposed power station by sea through the existing coal terminal, and other bulk materials would mostly be delivered to/from the site by rail.

Detailed impact assessments relating to the additional ships, trains and motor vehicles as a direct result of the proposed power station have been carried out, and these confirm that the existing infrastructure has the required capacity to accommodate the anticipated additional movements.

The existing rail siding will need to be extended slightly within the existing Clydeport site and the access road to the power station from the existing A78 roundabout would need to be improved, beyond this no other infrastructure improvements are required.

Would building and operating the proposed power station plant create traffic issues?
As part of the EIA our development proposals have been subjected to an integrated transport study and a traffic assessment in consultation with the relevant authorities. The impact of the completed development on traffic flows on the road infrastructure would be minimal. On site accommodation facilities would be provided for contract employees during the construction phase if required to reduce the level of commuting to site during this period.

This and other relevant transport information is available as part of the Transport Assessment within the Environmental Statement.

Would there be noise pollution from the plant?
A full assessment of the likely noise impact of the proposed development, during both construction and operation phases, has been undertaken and measures have been incorporated to ensure the noise falls within acceptable levels. Noise levels from the plant would be monitored to ensure that they stay within the limits which would be prescribed under the facilities operating permit issued by SEPA.

How many jobs would the plant generate?
The local economy would benefit from the development with a peak of around 1,600 people employed during the construction phase and up to 160 direct employees during normal operation. Indirect employment would be generated through demands for local goods and services from both permanent and temporary staff.

The employees would be deployed to manage, administer, operate and maintain the proposed power station. Further details are provided in the planning application.

How can the use of coal be deemed environmentally responsible?
Coal is one of a range of fuel stocks which will need to be used by Scottish and UK power stations for many decades to ensure security of energy supply and to meet shortfalls in supply left by intermittent renewable sources. Many countries do not have the renewable resources that are available in the UK and are therefore dependent on coal to meet their basic energy needs – we must all find ways to use it responsibly.

APL proposes to generate power from coal and biomass using super-critical boiler technology to achieve the highest possible efficiency of electricity generation. Demonstration Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) equipment will be implemented from start up on 300MW of net capacity, thereby reducing the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) released by the power station. The CO2 captured will be stored permanently in geological structures beneath the sea.

APL is fully committed to installing CCS technology on the whole plant as soon possible. When full CCS has been installed the power station will capture and store 90% of the CO2 it produces.

How much coal would the power station consume?
The proposed power station would require a maximum annual coal input of 4.60 million tonnes and 0.80 million tonnes of biomass if run at full capacity. In reality the coal consumption will be significantly lower than this.

Where would the coal come from?
The coal would come from international sources such as Australia, South Africa or South America by ship. The price, quality and transport costs of the coal used would ultimately influence final coal procurement decisions. The specific sourcing of coal will be determined as part of a coal procurement strategy which would be developed once all necessary consents have been obtained.

Won’t the transport of coal by ship from other countries generate a large amount of carbon emissions?
Transport emissions have been fully assessed as part of the EIA and a worse case assessment indicates that transport accounts for around 8% of the total emissions of the operation of the power station. This calculation is based upon a set of assumptions regarding distances and travel mode, as well as using standard factors.

Why are you not using coal mined in Scotland thereby providing a boost for Scottish mining industry?
The use of Scottish coal has not been precluded and the design of the plant will allow its use. For the purposes of the planning application, and the associated EIA, it has been assumed that all of the coal and biomass fuel supplies would be delivered to the site by ship. In the event that Scottish or UK coal were to be used, this would be delivered to site by rail or road thereby necessitating further environmental impact and traffic/rail assessments.

Are you applying for planning permission for the Demonstartion CCS unit?
Ayrshire Power’s application includes the ‘on shore’ elements of the Demonstration Carbon Capture and CO2 gas handling facilities, as required under current legislation. The application however, excludes the ‘off shore’ elements of the carbon dioxide transport and storage facilities for which later applications would be necessary. Details of the proposed CO2 transport and storage options under consideration are included in the CCS Design Concept Report which forms part of our application and are also outlined below.

Has it been decided where the CO2 will be stored and how it will get there?
Our work to date has highlighted a number of options for the storage and transportation of CO2. On the assumption that the CO2 is likely to be stored in the East Irish Sea in one or more of the existing depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs in the Liverpool Bay or Morecambe Bay fields, a pipeline would be used to transport the gas. There may also be the potential to link to the East coast of Scotland for storage in depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs in the North Sea. These options will be further explored in later stages of the project.

Scotland doesn’t need any more energy, so why build a plant here?
A number of existing fossil fuel and nuclear power stations will close in the foreseeable future. Unless these are replaced an ‘energy gap’ will emerge in Scotland and the rest of the UK, and there is a risk that energy supplies will be disrupted and/or prices will increase significantly. Improvements in energy efficiency will certainly help to reduce this gap and renewable energy facilities will play an increasingly important role in the overall energy generation mix. Despite this, modern fossil fuelled power stations will continue to be needed to ensure a reliable supply of electricity under the anticipated demand scenarios. Coal is a readily available and cost effective fuel source and, together with other fossil fuels, will remain a key part of the overall fuel mix for the medium to long term. The Scottish Government and others believe that a mix of fuel sources is required to ensure security of electricity supply.

Predicting the future demand and supply for electricity is a complex subject which depends on a number of topics including Government policy, fuel prices, maintenance costs and safety of existing generating plant, the weather (particularly temperature and wind), the state of the economy, the availability of finance for new electrical infrastructure, the planning system, progress towards increasing energy efficiency, progress in deploying renewables, and the electrification of heat and transport, to name but a few. Scotland is well placed to exploit CCS technology to meet its low carbon energy needs.

The Scottish Government calls for an 80% reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 2050. How does APL justify the building of a new power station which would emit significant volumes of CO2 before full CCS facilities have been installed?
Given the anticipated energy shortfall, it is recognised that it will be necessary to build new fossil fired power stations to meet future energy demands.

The proposed power plant design is based upon the latest supercritical power station technology with significantly increased efficiency. Existing coal power stations typically operate at a thermal efficiency of approximately 36% and emit in excess of 900g CO2 per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated. A new supercritical coal power station of the type proposed for Hunterston would operate at a thermal efficiency of approximately 47% and emit only 102g CO2/kWh when fully fitted with CCS facilities. During the early years of its operation the proposed power station with demonstration scale CCS would emit approximately 34% less CO2 per kilowatt hour supplied than a conventional coal fired power station. Once full CCS is fitted, the plant would emit approximately 90% less CO2 per kilowatt hour than a conventional coal fired power station.

The proposed power station at Hunterston would also be co-fired with up to 14% biomass which will contribute to lower overall CO2 emissions.

Why is CCS not used more widely already?
Mainly for economic reasons – the current technologies have a high cost attached to them – and because the regime regulating the deployment of the technology is not yet in place.

This technology for capturing CO2 is available now. The technology needs to be developed further towards higher efficiency and lower cost, as is the case for all technologies; when they are deployed and used, they develop and improve and become more economically viable. The transport infrastructure also needs significant investment to connect emitters and storage sites.

CO2 is already transported in pipelines and by ship and it is being injected into off shore oil fields – the injection of CO2 can increase the amount of oil extracted from a field by forcing it out (known as EOR or Enhanced Oil Recovery). These technologies are available now and have been used for decades.

Why not fit CCS on an existing coal power station?
It may be possible to fit CCS to existing coal fired power stations, where their location permits the installation of CCS equipment and a suitable transport route for the CO2 is available. However, a number are due to close and others with a limited operating life may not be able to justify the scale of investment. The lower efficiency of conventional plant not only affects their consumption (and cost) of coal but also the emissions of CO2 and thereby the cost of CCS when compared to a modern supercritical coal fired power station of the type proposed for Hunterston.

How much would the plant cost to build?
It is difficult to predict future build costs precisely at this stage, however, an equivalent power station plant built today would cost £1.5-2.0 billion with an additional £1.0 billion to construct the demonstration CCS plant.

Are you intending for the Hunterston site to be the subject of the CCS funding competitions?
APL is actively exploring the availability of both UK and EU funding to assist with the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) and procurement of the Demonstration CCS unit for the proposed Hunterston power station. A number of UK/EU competitions for funds to support the development of CCS facilities are currently underway and we intend to submit robust bids for the available financial support.

The main power station itself is not expected to require any public funding support.

How much energy would the plant generate?
The plant will generate a net 1600MW when operated with the CCS demonstration plant.

How long would the plant take to build?
It is estimated that the plant would take 4 years to construct and a further 2 years to fully commission.

When would the plant start operating?
The earliest the plant would be start operating is at the end of 2017.

How long would the plant operate?
The power station would have a life of approximately 40 years.

What political interest have you had locally and nationally?
We have communicated our plans locally and nationally from the outset and there has been a lot of constructive and positive feedback thus far. We have had regular and on-going dialogue with local politicians and councillors to ensure that they have had an accurate understanding of Ayrshire Power’s plans and to give them the opportunity to raise questions passed to them by their constituents.

What consultation exercises have you carried out locally?
APL has maintained regular dialogue with Community Councils, North Ayrshire Council, local MP’s and MSP’s since the project was announced in November 2008 and also held four local public exhibitions in October 2009. To date three Newsletters have been issued and it is our intention to issue further Newsletters as may be appropriate. In addition the website has been developed to assist in communicating APL’s proposals and to provide a route through which interested parties may contact APL. A Statement of Community Involvement setting out the consultation undertaken by APL throughout the pre- application stage is included with the planning application.

Have you spoken to any of the environmental organisations during the consultation period?
We have had open, regular and detailed dialogue with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Scottish National Heritage (SNH) and many other organisations during an extensive consultation exercise in order to address their specific requirements in relation to the proposed development. We will continue to work with them and others during the determination period relating to our planning application.