A new study released by the Energy Technology Institute (ETI) has thrown a fresh spotlight onto the UK’s potential carbon dioxide (CO2) offshore storage assets and how they could pave the way towards affordable climate action.

The £2.5m ($3.6m) appraisal study, entitled ‘Progressing development of the UK’s Strategic Carbon Dioxide Storage Resource,’ was carried out for the ETI by Pale Blue Dot and its project partners, and aims to help advance understanding of the UK’s strategic CO2 storage reserves by releasing important new CO2 storage site data into the public domain for the first time.

The resource outlines how there aren’t actually any technical hurdles in permanent offshore geological storage and that more than a billion tonnes of CO2 could be stored in identified North Sea locations by 2030. Alongside offshore salt-water aquifers, these sites can now be put to profitable use for storing anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

The study examined five typical configurations of offshore UK geology in the Central North Sea, the Southern North Sea and the Irish Sea.

Aquaculture sea

Authors of the paper estimate that the identified sites have a capacity of approximately 78 gigatonnes (Gt), which could substantially provide at least 100 years’ worth of storage. Even that doesn’t make a dent in physical supplies though, with these locations only representing 15% of the UK’s total potential storage resources.

Andrew Purvis, the Global CCS Institute’s General Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa, explained, “This important report provides further assurance of the vast offshore CO2 resource offered by the UK Continental Shelf and highly detailed site information for five future storage sites.”

“Perhaps most importantly, the report identifies that three of the five sites studied would not require any further appraisal drilling. This is significant because it means the UK CO2 storage proposition could be available for injection from the early 2020s.”

He continued to explain the potential this ground breaking information has for large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) development and the waves it could make across the rest of the world, “The extent of such valuable and comprehensive research and modelling we now have about these storage locations should help boost investor confidence and raise awareness of the valuable resource potential of the North Sea.”

The extent of such valuable and comprehensive research and modelling we now have about these storage locations should help boost investor confidence and raise awareness

Andrew Purvis, Global CCS Institute’s General Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa

“In turn, this critically important data will help inform a clearer roadmap for CCS development not just in the UK, but with the potential to create a storage hub for CO2 emissions from mainland Europe as well.”

Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS), the largest carbon capture and storage research group in the UK, explained the potential cost reductions that the discoveries in this new report could have. The organisation predicted that the average levelised cost for transport and storage per tonne of CO2 would be around £15 ($21.5). This would add just £7.50 ($11) per megawatt hour (MWhr) to the levelised cost of power from gas, with SCCS suggesting, “It’s a very low cost action.”

SCCS Director, Stuart Haszeldine, underlined, “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%-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,” Haszeldine concluded.

It is thought that by the end of next year, the world’s growing portfolio of CCS projects will enable the capture of up to 40 million tonnes of CO2 each year – an increase of more than 40% compared to 2015.