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Vast CO2 storage potential in North Sea

Written by  OE Staff Thursday, 12 May 2016 04:22

A new report produced for the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) says there are no technical hurdles to permanently and safely storing large quantities of CO2 deep underground off the coast of the UK.

There is also the potential for sites in the North Sea to become a CO2 storage hub for emissions from mainland Europe.

The study examined five typical configurations of offshore UK geology: the Captain Sandstone (the subject of the SCCS joint industry project, CO2MultiStore), the Forties Sandstone in the Central North Sea, the Hamilton depleted gas field beneath the Irish Sea, the Viking gas field and 44/26 sandstone dome sites beneath the Southern North Sea. 

The report was produced by a consortium led by Aberdeen-based consultancy Pale Blue Dot Energy working with Axis Well Technology and Costain.

It follows a 12-month project commissioned and delivered by the ETI and funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Key findings include: 

  • The UK Continental Shelf can provide a vast national offshore CO2 storage resource, which can be made readily available without having to undertake extensive appraisal programs thanks to decades of oil and gas exploration and development activity.

  • The five sites studied in detail are suitable for storing CO2 emissions from both power and industry projects around the UK.
  • Only two of the five sites would need further appraisal drilling before any investment decision was made

The project has built on data from CO2 Stored – the UK’s CO2 storage atlas – a database which was created from the ETI’s UK Storage Appraisal Project. This is now publicly available and being further developed by The Crown Estate and the British Geological Survey.

This project identified 20 specific CO2 storage sites (from a potential 579 sites) which together represent the tip of a very large strategic national CO2 storage resource potential, estimated to be around 78GT (78,000 million tonnes). The top 15% of this potential storage capacity would last the UK around 100 years.

Five of these sites were then selected for further detailed analysis given their potential contribution to mobilise commercial-scale carbon, capture and storage (CCS) projects for power and industrial use in the UK. Outline storage development plans and budgets were prepared for each.

Under the terms of the DECC funding package, the ETI is publishing on its website the detailed reports from the project and providing access to the sub-surface geological models.

Andrew Green, ETI’s CCS Program Manager said:

“The results from this project have confirmed the understanding that there are no major technical hurdles to moving industrial scale CO2 storage forward in the UK. Indeed, the UK could form the basis of a storage resource that could service the needs of many parts of Europe in addition to its own needs.

“The five sites featured in the study, along with three others studied to FEED level previously, could collectively store over 1.5GT of CO2, and could be fully operational as early as 2030, which would be enough to service a significant roll out of commercial projects, including up to 10GW of power generation and major industrial sources fitted with CCS, as highlighted in earlier ETI analysis.

“This would represent the development of only 2% of the UK’s national storage resource potential. Our view is that CCS should still play an important role in the long-term decarbonization of the UK energy system and continues to offer the lowest cost solution to meeting the UK’s legally binding 2050 climate change targets.”

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