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Climate / Shetland’s climate-polluting carbon dioxide emissions reduce significantly

Flaring at the Sullom Voe Terminal has decreased significantly.

SHETLAND’s energy industry is pumping out almost 40 per cent less CO2 emissions than it was just six years ago.

An analysis of the latest Scottish pollutant release inventory, published by environment agency SEPA at the end of September, shows that CO2 emissions from Shetland based energy facilities have reduced from 641,180 tonnes in 2016 to about 395,420 tonnes in 2022.

The five local plants analysed are Shetland Gas Plant, the Sullom Voe power plant operated by Equans, the Sullom Voe refinery operated by EnQuest, the Lerwick Power Station and the Lerwick incinerator which powers the town’s district heating system.

Shetland has one of the highest carbon footprints of any community in the UK, and energy production plays a major role in this. Other factors are large carbon emissions from eroded peatlands.

All facilities apart from the council-run incinerator show a marked reduction in CO2 emissions over recent years, partly due to reduced throughput of fossil fuels.

All companies apart from Equans – at 167,950 tonnes of CO2 Shetland’s top polluter – were willing to engage with Shetland News and to share some of their plans and thoughts on the issue.

Numerous attempts to contact Equans via their website, their media office and directly at the power plant were unsuccessful. The local management at the Sullom Voe power plant is not allowed to speak to the media.

According to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), these are the figures for carbon dioxide released in 2016 (the first year figures for the gas plant are available) and last year:

2016 2022
Shetland Gas Plant 235.23 122.99
SVT power plant 211.74 167.95
SVT Refinery 100.31 25.53
Lerwick Power Station 79.71 59.86
Waste to Energy Plant 14.19 19.09

Pollution from the Lerwick power plant and the Equans operated power plant at Sullom Voe Terminal are set to reduce to near zero once the Viking Energy wind farm replaces the existing local power supply.

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Both plants currently operate with a derogation from the industrial emissions directive (IED) in place which expires at the end of 2025.

A spokesperson for SSEN Distribution said the reduction in CO2 emissions at the Lerwick Power Station over recent years was mainly due to lower demand as a result of firstly Covid and then warmer weather.

A new engine installed at the power station in combination with an 8MW battery “increases the efficiency of Lerwick Power Station and provides more room for renewable generation in the overall energy mix”, the company added.

Once the power station moves to standby mode at the end of next year or early in 2025, the plant is expected to emit no more than 5,500 tonnes of CO2 annually, the company said.

“This is to cover test-running of the station and the annual maintenance of the HVDC system, meaning the station will have to run for around four days each summer,” the spokesperson said.

Shetland Gas Plant has almost halved its emissions from a high of over 235,000 tonnes at the start of its operations to about 123,000 tonnes last year.

“The plant is currently operating on single power generator and single gas compressor operations, saving around 56 kilotonnes CO2e a year,” a TotalEnergies spokesperson explained.

The company added that it had also “optimised transport of equipment to and from site to reduce logistics based diesel emissions, and put a strong focus on reducing the number of flights to site”.

Sullom Voe Terminal next door, meanwhile, has reduced emissions by 75 per cent to 25,330 tonnes in 2022. These emissions come from flaring at the terminal site.

Operator EnQuest said improved performance of facilities at the site enables gas which would have previously been flared to be recovered as fuel gas for the power station.

As previously reported the company is in the process of transforming the terminal in preparation for a number of “decarbonisation opportunities” including carbon capture and storage and green hydrogen production.

Earlier this year initial plans were lodged around the idea of the terminal being powered from the local grid instead of the power station there, which is due to be decommissioned in 2025.

Plans to connect Sullom Voe Terminal to the electricity grid

“The first of these projects to be actioned are the new stabilisation facility, as well the new power generation solution required ahead of the 2025 expiry of the Equans power station contract and the group expects to provide further updates as project milestones are met,” an EnQuest spokesperson said.

Finally, Shetland Islands Council said CO2 emissions will fluctuate each year depending on the quantity and type of waste materials incinerated.

Environment and estate operations manager Carl Symons said: “In general, however, the CO2 emissions figures for the Lerwick Energy Recovery Plant are on a downward trend since exceeding 30,000 tonnes produced in 2007/8.

“We are in the process of installing flue gas analysers to meet ever-tightening legislation on overall emissions, and these will include the ability to specifically monitor CO2 emissions in real time thus removing the need to provide estimates.

“We are also considering carbon capture systems to further reduce this in future.”

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