New UK carbon-capture industry could grow from Scotland’s small Acorn project

The Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage consortium of Scots universities has welcomed an expert new study which demonstrates that the UK has enough geological CO2 storage to support a carbon capture and storage industry to at least 2050 and beyond. 

The report – Taking Stock of UK CO2 Storage – is published by the Energy Technologies Institute.

It will support renewed momentum by scientists and industry alike to deliver the infrastructure needed to start tackling the UK’s carbon emissions in line with our climate change goals – as defined by domestic targets and the Paris Agreement, which the UK has signed up to and ratified. 

Citing the east coast of mainland Britain as a good starting point, the report suggests that work could begin now to match CO2 emitters, such as industry, to suitable storage sites in order to “start small and build fast”, with the first full-chain projects ultimately leading to a network of shared infrastructure.  

In fact, one such project is already under way in north-east Scotland – the Acorn carbon-capture scheme.

A consortium led by the Grampian-based Pale Blue Dot consultancy and which includes SCCS as a partner, has recently secured funding for feasibility studies.

This small-scale, low-cost project will use existing infrastructure to tie a large CO2 emitter base into extensive North Sea storage – an asset, which can also be used for CO2 emissions shipped from Teesside and other “clusters” around the North Sea basin.

Prof. Stuart Haszeldine
Prof. Stuart Haszeldine

Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said: “With the right level of support – importantly, much less than the UK’s previous failed attempts at delivering large-scale CCS – Acorn could be operating as early as 2020.

“Acorn aims to show how we can start small and build out to deliver a world-class CCS industry with an unparalleled geological storage asset and a skills base to match. Of course, key to this will be the preservation of oil and gas infrastructure at risk of being decommissioned.

“We hope the ETI’s findings will further strengthen the case for protecting these offshore assets and making swift progress on CCS – a technology that will deliver net zero carbon emissions not just for electricity but also industry, heat and transport by 2050.

“We welcome the ETI’s findings and, in fact, would go further and suggest that the UK’s CO2 storage capacity could accept UK greenhouse gas emissions from industry, heat and power well beyond 2050 to 2100, or even 2200. This can create jobs and protect UK businesses against inevitable rises in carbon prices from our trading partners in Europe, the USA and China.”

Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) is a research partnership comprising the British Geological Survey, and Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Aberdeen universities.

 ‘Taking Stock of UK CO2 Storage

Dennis Gammer,
Dennis Gammer

Dennis Gammer, Strategy Manager for carbon-capture at the ETI, added: “Following the closure of the Government CCS Commercialisation competition, we have reassessed options for developing the UK CCS Transport & Storage infrastructure.

“There is no shortage of potential storage, either fully or partially appraised. Attractive projects to the developer and government will need to realise economies of scale at, or relatively shortly after start-up.

“Well positioned, large new emitters are most likely to be large gas power stations delivering strategic infrastructure to enable the later tie-in of industrial emissions.

“For some potential stores, options to start small and build may reduce the size of initial commitment at risk and so offer an alternative approach to building a regional CCS network”.

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