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Carbon Capture and Storage

Volume 545: debated on Thursday 17 May 2012

Bidders were required to register their interest in the carbon capture and storage commercialisation programme with the Department by 13 April, and must submit bids by 3 July. Once bids are submitted, a full and thorough assessment will be carried out, and decisions on which projects to support will be taken in the autumn.

I am grateful for that answer. Obviously the Minister will know that we in the UK have vast reserves of untapped coal, including much in Fife. Will he try to ensure that the opportunity for clean-coal technology is not lost in the current process, and will he find the time to come to Fife and see our technologies first hand?

I would always be delighted to find a chance to go to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. As he knows, I fought Clackmannan in the 1983 election. They did not see the need for my presence there at that time, but finding other reasons to go back would be a great pleasure. We see this issue as an important part of coal policy, and we want it to provide a long-term future for coal in the energy mix. There are tremendous resources around the United Kingdom, and the work being done in his constituency and elsewhere is important to that process.

22. The Minister also fought a seat in Mansfield, very close to Thoresby colliery. If he wants to come half way up the country, he might come to see the good work going on at Thoresby colliery. I hope that he can assure the House that when the clean coal technology is developed, it will give this country a great future of energy reserves. (107633)

I did eventually work out that fighting mining seats was not the best way to get elected to this House; it is more accurate to say that they fought me, rather than I fought them. Many areas around this country have tremendous resources that can benefit from this technology and, in addition, great technological skills that we can bring forward in this process. This is a world-class, world-leading competition, and it is a very exciting time for this industry.

The Minister of State is a self-effacing fellow. If memory serves me correctly, although he was unsuccessful in Mansfield he did lose in 1987 by only 56 votes, and I think the House ought to know that.

I welcome the progress on carbon capture and storage, a technology with great potential. Will the Minister also update us on another clean coal technology being pioneered in Newcastle, underground coal gasification?

I have yet to be tempted to fight a seat in Newcastle, but these opportunities may still happen. I was grateful for the chance to meet the hon. Lady and some of the team from Newcastle university—they and others are doing very important work in this area. We are still looking at some of the work, and I have a meeting coming up with one of the major global companies, Linc Energy, to try to understand more fully and effectively the work that it is doing in this sector. We think that it can be a player, but it is not in the forefront for the first stage of carbon capture and storage projects, because of the current stage of the technology.

It is estimated that carbon capture and storage technology could support an amazing 100,000 jobs by the end of the next decade, so does my hon. Friend agree that speed is very much of the essence if we are to maximise the huge opportunities that this technology offers?

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend, and the reason why we have brought forward this competition with the speed that we have—three months for submissions to be made and another three months or so before the final outcome is known—is the importance of speed. Work is going on around the world to try to deal with this. We think that with £1 billion up front and £125 million for research and development, and through our new market reform structure—a long-term mechanism for supporting that industry—we can move this from being a few pilot projects to an industry.