Experts from academia, government and industry have signed a collaborative research agreement that will provide invaluable knowledge to reduce risk and guide the development of commercial multi-user offshore storage sites for carbon dioxide.

Lessons learned from the CO2MultiStore project, and the resulting transferable knowledge, will inform leasing and licensing needs for multi-user CO2 storage sites off the UK and elsewhere. These sites could be developed for the secure and permanent containment of millions of tonnes of CO2 captured from power plants and industrial facilities. 

Crucially, the knowledge gained will help to reduce the risks to the economic and business case for offshore CO2 storage, providing reassurance to potential developers and investors. Results will feed into the development of both the leasing and regulatory frameworks for the transport and storage needed by the UK’s emerging Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) industry. 

Researchers on the CO2MultiStore project will predict the effect of injecting CO2 into two potential storage sites within an extensive sandstone more than half a mile beneath the sea bed in the UK Central North Sea, east of Scotland. The study will use 3D computer models created from data collected for oil and gas exploration, and will benefit from the input of industry knowledge and expertise in CO2 geological storage. 

The project is supported by the Scottish Government, The Crown Estate, Scottish Enterprise and Shell. It is led by researchers from Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS), a partnership of British Geological Survey (BGS), Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. 

A collaborative study published by SCCS two years ago indicated that the sandstone being further investigated by CO2MultiStore could potentially store at least 15 years, and potentially up to a century’s worth, of Scotland’s CO2 emissions. 

The CO2MultiStore study will use the same geological formation as two of the four main projects put forward into the UK government’s commercialisation competition as the basis for the research.  One of these projects is a preferred bidder, the other is in reserve. 

Dr Maxine Akhurst, of the SCCS directorate and leader of the CO2MultiStore project for BGS, said, “The CO2MultiStore research investigates how multiple CO2storage sites can be developed in the vast sandstones present offshore UK, and so contribute to the UK’s ambition to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2050.”

Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, said, “The Scottish Government is committed to the reduction of carbon emissions from fossil fuels and supports CCS new technology that, if implemented on a commercial scale, could reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels, increasing our security of supply, and present enormous economic opportunities for Scotland.”  

“Developing the Central North Sea as a storage hub for CO2 is attractive given Scotland’s potential in terms of making best use of the existing infrastructure from the oil and gas industry.  However, CO2storage is one of the most uncertain parts of the CCS chain and presents a major barrier to commercial deployment so I very much welcome this research project as a means to further derisk the CCS proposition.”

Ward Goldthorpe, CCS Programme Manager for The Crown Estate, said, “The Crown Estate is the holder of rights to offshore CO2 storage capacity around the UK.  This project will help develop leasing structures and processes, and will contribute to reducing risks to the economic and business case for the development of multi-user regional CO2 storage assets.”

David Rennie, international sector head - oil and gas, thermal generation and carbon capture and storage, Scottish Enterprise, said, “This project forms a key piece in realising the vast storage potential of the central North Sea. By addressing the issues around multiple/shared site commercial storage of CO2, we can reassure investors and help realise opportunities for new and existing developers. This work builds on a current study that Scottish Enterprise is undertaking to explore how the North Sea could become a European hub for carbon capture and storage, the findings of which will be reported later this year.”

Bill Spence, Head of CCS, Shell, said, “The insights gathered through collaborations like this are central to supporting the development and wide-scale deployment of CCS, which is a critical technology in limiting the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

The research project is under way and will be completed by spring 2014, when the results and recommendations – relevant to storage project developers and regulators for the management of individual stores within a multi-user sandstone – will be made publicly available.