Plans unveiled for UK’s first carbon capture rail link

Two British firms – one seeking to capture emissions and one specialising in carbon storage – have partnered to develop a new ‘rail corridor’ for transporting captured carbon.

Plans unveiled for UK’s first carbon capture rail link

Pictured: The Ferrybridge EfW plant. Image: enfinium

Energy-from-waste (EfW) firm enfinium has this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Navigator Terminals, which specialises in storing gas in liquid form. The agreement concerns the development of a new rail corridor between enfinium’s Ferrybridge EfW plant in West Yorkshire and Navigator Terminals’ storage facilities in Teesside.

The corridor will be using the East Coast Main Line and then linking into the Stockton Spur. Freight will be scheduled around passenger services on the line and will be sent at quieter periods, such as night-time.

enfinium estimates that some 700,000 tonnes of emissions could be captured from the Ferrybridge EfW plant each year once man-made carbon capture technologies are fitted there at scale. Tolvik estimates that the average annual emissions footprint of a UK-based EfW plant is around 900,000 tonnes, for context. But enfinium claims that its Ferrybridge site is more energy and carbon efficient than this and that the site could become carbon-neutral, or event carbon-negative, with CCS.

enfinium notably became a member of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association last year. It will build its new EfW plant in Kelvin, West Bromwich, with CCS from the outset, and is drawing up plans to explore CCS at existing plants including Ferrybridge also.

It is hoped that the new rail freight link would benefit other companies looking to capture carbon and store it permanently within the UK, as well as enfinium.

“The UK is a world leader in decarbonisation solutions, but it is clear that there is a need to develop alternative transportation and storage solutions for CO2 if we are to meet the country’s net-zero ambitions, Navigator Terminals’ chief executive Jason Hornsby said.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has recommended that the UK aims to host at least 22 million tonnes of annual CCS capacity online this decade, in order to support its legally binding 2050 net-zero target. This should be used not as an excuse not to reduce emissions, the CCC has stated, but as a means to align hard-to-abate sectors with the nation’s legally binding climate targets.

Hornby continued: “We have worked with enfinium to explore the opportunities for them to realise their decarbonisation plans by harnessing the rail network in the North East and connecting with our Terminal on Teesside before permanent sequestration of the carbon. This is an exciting UK first project, and we hope it can prove the concept of carbon transportation by rail opening up huge potential for further decarbonisaiton of British industry.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen added: “Seeing Navigator Terminals and enfinium come together to develop net-zero infrastructure here in Teesside is yet more proof that our region is the best place in the UK to invest in industries of the future like carbon capture. We have the workforce with world-leading industrial experience to make net zero a reality. Breathing new life into our regional rail infrastructure to deliver carbon capture is an exciting step in cementing our status as a pioneer in clean energy and reinforces that Teesside is a great place to do business.”

Last summer, the UK hosted its first licencing round for projects that will enable the large-scale storage of captured carbon under the North Sea.

The Government has subsequently outlined a vision to invest an unprecedented £20bn in CCS over the next 20 years. Further details on exactly where this funding will come from and how it will be allocated are due shortly.

Comments (3)

  1. Tim Beesley says:

    You state the following:
    “But enfinium claims that its Ferrybridge site is more energy and carbon efficient than this and that the site could become carbon-negative”

    I struggle to understand how a power station with CCS can become carbon negative.

    The term carbon negative implies removing more carbon from the biosphere than one puts in. CCS simply cannot do this as it is only partially efficient. The process also consumes energy in its operation. It is also necessary to transport the liquefied CO2 and then pump it underground, all of which consumes energy.

    I’d like to see more of an explanation of the extent to which define this claim.

    1. Ian Byrne says:

      I agree with Tim. There’s a lot of press releases that are at best, sloppily worded, and at worst applying a layer of greenwash to disguise what may actually be a good environmental project, over-egging the pudding (to mix metaphors!).
      It’s worth noting that ISO is trying to achieve a robust definition of carbon neutral through its ISO 14068 document, currently at Draft International Standard status (full disclosure – I’m the WG convenor), but that this will not address terms like carbon negative.
      I’d also be fascinated to know a little more about the “rail corridor”. Ferrybridge is around 70 miles from Seal Sands (Navigator terminals’ main site on Teesside). Will this be a totally new line, or simply connections to and from the existing East Coast main line? And how will the latter cope with extra freight traffic among the fast passenger services?
      So many questions raised by this article…

    2. Sarah George says:

      Hi Ian, I’ve just secured more info on the corridor route and added this to the story.

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