The “small-scale” trial at the Longannet plant in Scotland will trap gas from 1 megawatt of output, the company said in a statement. The unit of Spanish utility Iberdrola SA aims to extend the coverage from 1 megawatt, which supplies about 1,000 homes, to 330 megawatts by 2014.

The U.K. has pinned its hopes on carbon capture and storage devices, or CCS, to blunt the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels. The government has short-listed Scottish Power and the German utilities E.ON AG and RWE AG to receive state funding for a commercial-scale trial of the technology.

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“There are over 50,000 fossil-fuel power stations in operation throughout the world,” Scottish Power Chief Executive Officer Nick Horler said. “By proving that CCS technology can be retrofitted to existing stations, we can begin to address the carbon lock-in from these power plants.”

Containing CO2 emissions from coal combustion, using a 30- ton Aker Solutions ASA unit, started at 10 a.m. local time. Scottish Power will test only equipment that captures the gases, leaving the storage element for later. The eventual aim of the technology is to store CO2 underground permanently.

McKinsey Cost Estimate

At the demonstration stage, carbon capture costs as much as 90 euros ($127) to keep a ton of emissions from the atmosphere, according to McKinsey and Co. Developers of the technology including Alstom SA have called for increased government incentives to ramp up research and help lower costs.

Ed Miliband, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, last month said no new coal-fired power stations could be built without adopting the new carbon technology.

Rocks under the North Sea can store the entire carbon- dioxide output of Scotland and northeast England for two centuries, according to a University of Edinburgh-led study published on May 1.

National Grid Plc, which manages the U.K.’s natural-gas delivery network, has said it’s investigating devising a system of pipes to carry emissions from clusters of power plants in Scotland, near London and on Humberside and Teesside, all along the country’s east coast.

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