Scotland identifies North Sea CCS sites

The UK North Sea could hold millions of tonnes of carbon emissions in saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas fields, but government must support CCS technology development, a report said.

Uchenna Izundu
OGJ International Editor

LONDON, May 5 -- The UK North Sea could hold millions of tonnes of carbon emissions in saline aquifers and depleted oil and gas fields, but government must support carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology development, a report said.

The report, entitled Opportunities for Carbon Dioxide Storage Around Scotland, was prepared by the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, the Scottish government, and industry partners. Similar reports have been prepared for regions elsewhere around the world.

Scotland could play a pivotal role in the CCS sector with the creation of 10,000 jobs and the CO2 storage capacity is comparable with Norway and greater than the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany combined, the study said.

The latest report found industrial emissions, including those from electric power plants, could be injected into the northern and central North Sea, opening storage options for continental Europe. The report mentioned 10 saline aquifers and 29 hydrocarbon fields.

More than 90% of storage capacity lies within large saline aquifers positioned at several different levels and typically 1-3 km deep beneath the seabed, and often close to oil and gas fields.

Pressure is growing on member states to meet the European Union's requirement that by 2015 there are 12 demonstration sites with CCS on full-sized electric power plants. The next steps involve more detailed mapping and evaluation of specific saline aquifers.

Industry response
Experts say it is unlikely that CCS technology would be developed unless it was supported by the government. Cost estimates range from £750 million to more than £1 billion.

Utility company Scottish Power hopes to start capturing carbon within 5 years in Scotland. E.On UK plans to build a £1.5 billion coal-fired electric power station at Kingsnorth, Kent—the first in the country in more than 30 years.

Paul Golby, chief executive of E.On UK, said the company was committed to fit capture technology at the plant as long as it was properly funded. E.On hopes to send CO2 to Hewett gas field in the southern North Sea by pipeline and is looking at different routes.

E.On proposes several fossil-fired electric power stations and other industrial sites be linked to the same carbon transportation system.

Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, urged government to move quickly if it wants the UK to be a pioneer. He said government must ensure that any funding mechanism is sustainable for long-term technology development.

The UK launched a competition in 2007 to support a CCS demonstration. The winner is expected to be announced at midyear. Contenders are E.On UK, Peel Power, and Scottish Power.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com.

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