CARBON capture and storage (CCS) is too expensive and will “never be viable”, a former World Bank advisor claims.

Economics professor Gordon Hughes, of Edinburgh University, says the anti-climate change measure is “little more than a utopian dream”.

The claims are made in a report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank, set up by Tory peer and climate change sceptic Nigel Lawson.

The body challenges scientific data on the impact of pollution and has called on the UK Government to scrap targets to reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions.

The method seeks to collect carbon dioxide from electricity and power generation and industrial processes and place it in depleted oil and gas fields or specific undersea rock formations, preventing it from entering the atmosphere.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called the process the “most important single new technology” for reducing the harmful emissions and, in its General Election manifesto, the SNP said Scotland could be a “leader” in the development of the technology.

Work commissioned by Scottish Enterprise suggested that, taken with enhanced oil recovery, it could be worth £3.5 billion to the economy.

However, launching the new research today, Hughes said: “We have spent countless millions trying to get carbon capture to work for coal-fired power stations. But in the future coal will mostly be used in the developing world, where CCS is going to be too expensive. Everyone else is moving to gas, for which CSS isn’t yet an option.”

He went on: “Successive governments haven’t thought their policies through. The focus on renewables is making CCS — already a marginal technology — even less viable.

“A coherent strategy could reduce carbon emissions at a fraction of the current cost by switching to gas with the option to install CCS if/when it makes economic sense.”

David Cameron’s government had planned to invest £1bn in developing CCS technology in the UK. A scheme in Peterhead was amongst the projects in the running for the grant, alongside the White Rose project in North Yorkshire.

However, the contest was axed in 2015, something Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said was a “disgrace”, and power firm SSE, which was working on the Aberdeenshire bid along with Shell, called it a “significant missed opportunity”.

In 2015, Stuart Haszeldine, professor of geology and carbon storage at Edinburgh University, insisted the infrastructure in place for the oil and gas sector makes the central North Sea “as near to perfect as you will find anywhere in the world” for offshore sub-surface CCS.