Oil company to store peat bog for 30 years

A moorland peatbog is to be dug up wholesale and put into storage for more than 30 years in an unprecedented measure to protect it from destruction. The peatbog on Shetland is in the way of a gas processing facility which is to be built as an extension to the Sullom Voe oil terminal on the island.

The oil company Total has agreed, as part of the deal to be allowed to build the £500m gas facility, to store the peat so that it can be returned at the end of the plant's operational life.

It's estimated that more than 260,000 cubic metres of peat – enough to fill 100 Olympic swimming pools – will have to be cut out and moved away to be piled up in "peat terraces" and covered with a layer of vegetation to protect them from drying out.

Peat bogs are an increasingly rare feature of the British and European landscapes because so many have been drained to turn them into agricultural land. Others have been dug up for the gardening industry.

They are formed over many years as layer upon layer of vegetation dies and is covered up by more plants. Because of the low oxygen levels the dead plant material is preserved rather than decomposing, which means that peat stores huge quantities of carbon and when burned or broken up releases it back into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Peatlands are calculated to lock in twice as much carbon as forests, despite covering just 3 per cent of the land.

Brian O'Neill, a spokesman for Total, said the peat would be kept in conditions as close to their natural state as possible. "It will be wetted by the rain and drain in a similar way as it would naturally, which should ensure it is maintained in the same kind of wet anoroebic conditions as in nature," he said. "The condition of the peat in the stores will be monitored through the life of the plant to ensure it remains in a suitable condition to be used for site restoration."

The International Peat Society, which monitors peatlands across the globe amid concerns they are disappearing, welcomed the innovative decision by Shetland Islands Council to insist on the peat being stored rather than destroyed.

There remains, however, uncertainty about whether the peat, which will be stored within the perimeter of the gas plant, will survive the process. A report by the council cautioned: "There is no absolute certainty that the peat will be suitable for site restoration at the end of the gas plant's life."

The new gas facility, which it is estimated will be operational for 30 to 35 years, is intended as a staging post for gas piped from fields that are to be drilled west of the Shetlands. Once processed at Sullom Voe, the gas will be piped to the St Fergus terminal near Peterhead and then put into the national gas grid.

Andrew Cougar, of Scottish Natural Heritage, described peatbogs as an "incredibly important" part of the landscape and said: "There is a real rarity value to the Scottish peatlands. But because it seems we have so much of it here in Scotland we may tend to take it for granted."

Peatlands are home to wildlife including birds such as red-throated divers and whimbrels. Only a tiny fraction of Britain's ancient peatlands remain because of extraction, drainage, erosion and overgrazing. Peatbogs contain so much water that when drained the ground level can slump by several feet. Sphagnum moss, a common component of the vegetation covering peat, can contain 20 times its own weight in water.

Climate change campaigners have called for peatlands and other wetlands to be protected because of their value in acting as carbon sinks. Emergency measures have been taken in some parts of the country to protect peat bogs, including the Peak District where eroded areas are re-seeded.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?