A new £2.5 million study has confirmed that rocks deep beneath the seas around the UK are ideal for storing carbon dioxide (CO2) – and not just for securely storing UK carbon emissions but also those generated on mainland Europe.
For the first time these sites have been comprehensively analysed using data from offshore oil and gas exploration and production.
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 gasfield and 44/26 sandstone dome sites beneath the Southern North Sea.
Each site differs in its individual characteristics but all five are capable of securely storing very large amounts of CO2 from power and industry projects across the UK.
So how do these new findings translate into delivering a UK CCS industry?
The project identified a very large UK CO2 storage resource potential, estimated at 78 gigatonnes, of which 15% could serve the UK for 100 years.
The findings from the ￡2.5 million CO2 storage appraisal study** – carried out for the Energy Technologies Institute – show an average levelised cost for transport and storage of around ￡15 per tonne of CO2 and a range of between ￡11 and ￡18 per tonne.
Calculated in the same way as for electricity generation by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, this adds just ￡7.50 per megawatt hour (MWhr) to the levelised cost of power from gas (current cost around ￡50-70 / MWhr). This is a very low cost.
This cost can be further reduced if efficiencies in subsurface engineering are used to ensure that injected CO2 fully pervades the pore space of the reservoir sandstone. And identifying “clusters” of geographically close offshore sites can encourage a shared use of large diameter pipelines by emitters, which reduces the cost per tonne of CO2 by a further 10-30%.
Prof Stuart Haszeldine, Director, Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, said: “I congratulate Pale Blue Dot and their partners on this excellent study, and I was pleased to be able to provide technical advice and oversight during the project.
“Their work shows that affordable, well-engineered CO2 storage is within reach. With huge progress also being made in CO2 capture engineering, from innovations both in the UK and other countries, it is probable that the cost of capturing CO2 will tumble by anything from 20% to 90% in the next five years.
“Coupled with effective and viable storage, this will bring climate clean-up within viable price ranges for applications as diverse as electricity generation, heat supply, transport and particularly the process industries.”
Dr Gillian Pickup, of Heriot-Watt University, who also provided advice to the project, said: “Firstly, the fact that this project has been completed – despite the UK Government pulling ￡1 billion for the first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects – is reassuring.
“And secondly, it demonstrates that many people are determined that CCS should go ahead. The project aims were to identify the next phase of sites for CO2 storage offshore UK. This study shows that geoscientists and engineers in the UK are gaining more experience at evaluating potential sites. Also, it is a good example of how the UK’s CO2 storage atlas – CO2Stored – is being used.”
** The report, Progressing development of the UK’s Strategic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resource, and technical reports for the five selected storage sites can be downloaded at: http://www.eti.co.uk/project/strategic-uk-ccs-storage-appraisal/
Prof. STUART HASZELDINE is one of the key speakers at SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE forum being held at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation on 26 May 2016. For more information: – http://www.scotlandsrenewablefuture.co.uk/