The groundbreaking Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project has released findings from its international joint research project.

The findings show how the UK can support decarbonisation of some of Europe’s carbon-intensive regions from the early 2020s, through the phased roll-out of a low-cost, low-risk North Sea CO2 transport and storage infrastructure.

Research partners from the UK, the Netherlands and Norway will share results from the accelerated 18-month project, funded by the European Commission’s ERA-NET ACT programme, at a stakeholder event in Westminster this afternoon (23rd January 2019).

Among other findings, extensive research into several pivotal areas found that the UK’s existing North Sea oil and gas transport infrastructure coupled with an impressive natural CO2 storage resource offers significant benefits and value. Careful screening around just three strategically important pipelines reveals at least 16 suitable storage sites, with the most promising two potentially providing a storage resource for over 650 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2, which could be in use from as early as 2023.  

The deep-water port at Peterhead can import CO2 by ship from the UK and Europe. With a maximum throughput of 16Mt of CO2 annually, this facility could enable carbon capture in many other regions around the UK and the North Sea.

This early start to decarbonising high-emitting regions can then be expanded in a phased and low-cost manner through the use of this national and European CO2 CCS network. The reuse of legacy oil and gas infrastructure as part of the Acorn CCS project will save around £648m compared to the cost of new build. This brings a significant saving to the taxpayer in decommissioning alone.

Decarbonisation of the UK gas grid – for heat and transport – is possible by producing hydrogen (H2) from natural gas with CCS at St Fergus, where 35% of all UK natural gas comes onshore. Citizens in high-emitting industrial areas look to governments to enable a just transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to an environmentally sustainable future. 

In all three life cycle assessment scenarios (overall carbon footprint) the Acorn CCS project is predicted to bring major carbon reductions and lower the impact of greenhouse gases on health and ecosystems. 

Knowledge derived from the ACT Acorn project will be invaluable for similar developments in other North Sea regions and further afield where legacy oil and gas operations are in place.