Carbon storage sites

A study has found that up to 46,000 million tonnes of industrial carbon dioxide emissions can be stored deep beneath the Scottish area of the Northern and Central North Sea.

A study has revealed that up to 46,000 million tonnes of industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, including those from power generation, can be stored beneath the Scottish area of the northern and central North Sea.

According to the study – carried out by the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage (SCCS), the Scottish government and industry partners – storage capacity of 46,000Mt can facilitate over 100 years worth of the UK’s total industrial CO2 output.

Several sites are said to have the potential to store the next 200 years of Scotland’s total CO2 output alone.

The results from the study indicate that the UK as a whole has a storage resource capacity much larger than its planned annual volume of industrial CO2 output.

‘Opportunities for CO2 Storage around Scotland’ is said to be the most detailed and first fully integrated source-to-store research into CO2 transportation and storage ever performed in the UK.

To undertake the study, Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage (SCCS) and its partners first identified the largest sources of CO2 in Scotland and northern England, both now and up until 2040, (predominately from electrical power generation and industrial plants) then assessed the volume of their likely future emissions that could be captured.

The team then reviewed and screened a number of potential storage sites within the project area to find the best 10 saline aquifers and 29 hydrocarbon fields beneath the North Sea that have the potential to store CO2 indefinitely into the future. The capacity provided by the 10 aquifers, ranging from 4,600 to 46,000 million tonnes in capacity, is not only enough to hold Scotland’s emissions, but also opens up the possibility for the rest of the UK and Europe to store CO2 deep beneath the North Sea too.

More than 90 per cent of storage capacity lies within large aquifers of saline water, positioned at several different levels, typically between 1km and 3km deep beneath the seabed in the North Sea, and often close to hydrocarbon fields.

The study also indicates that CO2 storage in oil fields can be feasible in conjunction with CO-Enhanced Oil Recovery (CO2-EOR). If offshore pipelines reliably delivering CO2 can be developed through demonstration projects, then an increased number of oil fields could become economic for CO2-EOR providing other critical factors such as oil price, additional oil recovery and infrastructure suitability are also favourable.

With EU leaders’ requests for 12 demonstration sites with CCS on full-size power plants to be operating by 2015, the study identified a shortlist of representative carbon dioxide storage sites in the North Sea, specifically looking at saline aquifers and depleted hydrocarbon fields.

ScottishPower, which is participating in the UK government’s competition to develop the UK‘s first commercial scale CCS project, part funded the joint study.

The company claims it could have full-scale demonstration project working at its coal-fired Longannet power station by 2014 utilising these North Sea resources to store CO2.

Frank Mitchell, generation director at ScottishPower, said: ‘Our plans at Longannet involve retrofitting CCS technology to the existing power station by 2014.

‘A retrofit option is essential to enable the technology to be implemented globally, addressing the carbon lock in from over 50,000 fossil fuel power stations in operation throughout the world. We believe the UK can lead the world with this technology, creating new skills, jobs and opportunities for growth.

‘The UK already has the offshore infrastructure and the engineering skills and experience that give us a unique opportunity to play a leading role in this emerging industry and the low carbon economy of the future.’