Impact assessments for first of a kind projects

18th November 2015

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Malcolm Brown

ERM's principal consultant William Hazell and senior consultant Keith Grant outline how they undertook the EIA for the Peterhead carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.

ERM led the planning application and environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the onshore elements of the Peterhead CCS project, developed by Shell and SSE Generation. Aberdeenshire Council granted permission for the project in June 2015.

First of its kind

The Peterhead CCS project would be the world's first commercial-scale full chain CCS project on a gas-fired power station. The proposed project would fit a carbon capture plant to an existing gas turbine at SSE's Peterhead power station. Once operational, the plant would capture 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the 385MW gas turbine post combustion. In total, approximately one million tonnes of CO2 would be captured per year over 10 to 15 years. The captured CO2 would be compressed and conditioned to remove water and oxygen. It would then be transported 100 km offshore via a combination of new and existing pipelines to the Shell-operated Goldeneye platform in the central North Sea. Once at the platform, the CO2 would be injected into the Goldeneye CO2 store, a depleted hydrocarbon gas reservoir, more than 2 km under the seabed.

The project has national development status in the Scottish National Planning Framework and sits within the Energetica Corridor, a strategic growth area for energy sector investment.

The planning submission included standard requirements, as well as those to meet Shell's internal requirements:

  • Environmental statement incorporating information to inform habitats regulations appraisal:
  • Planning drawings;
  • Planning statement;
  • Design and access statement;
  • Pre-application consultation report;
  • A sustainability report to set out the sustainability performance of the project and meet Shell's internal requirements; and
  • A health impact assessment in response to feedback received during stakeholder engagement and to meet Shell's internal requirements.

A separate offshore EIA was submitted to the energy and climate department (Decc) in January 2015.

Ensuring a clear understanding of the project

Due to the project being the first of its kind, ERM had to work closely with the project team to develop and communicate a clear understanding of the project to all stakeholders. Our involvement as an integral part of the public consultation and regulator engagement activities helped with this process.

Visualisations, including 3D models and photomontages ensured everyone, from the project team to local communities, understood the project. An aerial drone survey of the site proved to be a useful tool for the impact assessment team. Of particular note was the use of the 3D visualisation to work up infographics for the project (see example, below). These infographics provided a clear representation of the project, allowed the detailed project description in the ES to be minimised for the non-technical summary and provided a consistent and visual basis for the full suite of documents supporting the planning application.

While many of these aspects should be undertaken as standard in an EIA, they were even more important given that the project was the first of its kind.

Global collaboration

ERM worked with Shell to combine in-house knowledge regarding aspects of the technology and the proposed project. The EIA was informed by evidence from other international projects and ERM engaged directly with international organisations. This included detailed technical collaboration with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) to help to validate our modelling outputs, drawing from NILU's experiences at Technology Centre Mongstad.

Acting on community concerns

The local community raised concerns over the potential impact of construction traffic. A construction strategy was devised to reduce the need for off-site vehicle movements. This includes proposals to locate a concrete batching plant on site and construct modular components off-site where possible. Demolition waste from the project will be reused or recycled with 100% of clean excavated fill material being reused, which would reduce the number of HGV movements required and aligns with Scotland's zero waste plan. Construction phasing was rescheduled to reduce the peak flow of construction traffic. A permanent upgrade to the site's main access junction was proposed to improve the safety of vehicles turning right.

By refining design and mitigation options with the design team and working closely with statutory consultees regarding assessment methodology, the team was able to address stakeholder concerns and mitigate impacts while progressing a conservative yet robust assessment.

The environmental statement and sustainability report for the Peterhead CCS project is available here.


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