A joint effort to assess the potential for subsea pipes in the southern North Sea to be repurposed for carbon dioxide (CO2) transport is currently underway at a testing facility in the UK.

Taking place at its Testing and Research Facility in Spadeadam, UK, independent energy expert and assurance provider DNV is working with partners Wintershall Noordzee (Wintershall) and the OTH Regensburg University of Applied Sciences to test running fracture in submerged conditions for CO2 pipelines. 

Regarded as a world first for the energy industry, the project’s early stages indicate that existing pipelines in submerged conditions may be well suited for transporting liquid CO2. 

“The next step will be to demonstrate the reliability of the evaluation process and prove the feasibility experimentally,” commented Klaus Langemann, Senior Vice President of Carbon Management and Hydrogen, Wintershall. 

This will include the provision by Wintershall of the design of the fracture arrest test and test set-up, with partners OTH and DNV supplying guidance during the process. 

Two large-scale tests will also be undertaken to compare the efficacy of air and water (>5m depth), as well as an optional test for the pipeline buried in soil. The partners hope that these tests will quantify the effect of having the pipeline submerged in water with respect to the capability to arrest a running ductile fracture, as well as providing validation of numerical models. 

With carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology set to accelerate in the near future, requirements for a reliable CO2 transport infrastructure are necessary now more than ever. 

Commenting on this, Prajeev Rasiah, Executive Vice President, Energy Systems, Northern Europe, DNV, said, “Driven by net zero ambitions, we are seeing globally the drive from industry and governments to proceed with CCS, and all major routes to successfully dacarbonise gas rely on the large-scale uptake of the technology.” 

He also emphasised the extent of Wintershall’s pipeline network, stating that its 4,800km of pipelines in the southern North Sea – of which 1,200km are operated by a 50:50 joint venture between Wintershall Dea AG and Gazprom – could be utilised, in addition to multiple depleted reservoirs for potential CO2 storage. 

“The initiative taken by Wintershall could be an important part of the puzzle to provide more cost-efficient solutions for re-use of pipelines for offshore dense phase CO2 transport for eventual storage in depleted reservoirs,” he added. 

The project could play an important role in fast-tracking CCS technology to secure a rapid energy transition, according to DNV.