European collaborative project holds closing conference

The European project, SiteChar, which held its closing conference in France late last month, has published a methodology guide for the assessment of CO₂ storage sites, which includes technical and economic data as well as the social aspects of deploying the technology. The guide has been welcomed as a valuable tool for the roll-out of geological CO₂ storage on an industrial scale in Europe.

Coordinated by the French research centre, IFP Energies nouvelles, the project brought together experts from academia, industry and government from 17 organisations – including British Geological Survey (BGS) – in nine European Union countries. Drawing on collective experience and skills, the team has created a guide specifically adapted to European geological contexts and European legislation, which can be used by storage site operators and regulatory bodies.

The project, launched in January 2011, was supported by the European Commission, Enel, PGNiG, Statoil, Vattenfall, Veolia Environnement, the Scottish Government and Gassnova. The research focused on five potential European storage sites, representative of the various geological contexts, as test sites for the research work: a North Sea multi-store site (hydrocarbon field and aquifer) offshore Scotland; an onshore aquifer in Denmark; an onshore gas field in Poland; an offshore aquifer in Norway; and an aquifer in the Southern Adriatic Sea.

At the Danish and Scottish sites, dry-run storage permit applications have been developed on the basis of criteria defined by the relevant European legislation and evaluated by a group of independent experts. The studies conducted at the other sites have investigated some specific barriers related to the site characterisation methodology. SiteChar has also considered the important aspect of public awareness and opinion of these new technologies in addition to technical issues for the Scottish offshore and Polish onshore sites.

Dr Maxine Akhurst, of BGS and leader of characterisation of the UK site in the SiteChar project, said: “The dry-run storage permit application prepared for a multi-store site in the UK northern North Sea illustrates the processes and approach for effective site characterisation suitable to gain the storage permits needed for developing the UK’s offshore CO₂ storage resource.”

Lessons learned from the SiteChar project, and the resulting transferable knowledge, will inform assessment and permitting needs for CO₂ storage sites in Europe. 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 operators and researchers to conduct a proper assessment of potential CO₂ storage sites aiming at demonstrating safe and permanent storage. Results will feed into the development of regulatory frameworks for the CO₂ geological storage considered as a critical component in a portfolio of low-carbon energy technologies.

Dr Florence Delprat-Jannaud, of IFPEN and coordinator of the SiteChar project, said: “SiteChar provides a unique opportunity to test and improve the process of site characterisation so that it is both fit for purpose and meets the challenge of gaining a storage permit.”

Stuart McKay, of the Scottish Government, said: “We were pleased to be part of the SiteChar project and believe that the information gathered in SiteChar’s outreach exercises to communities in Poland and in Scotland, provides important and very useful insights into public perceptions and public awareness of CCS. Likewise, the geotechnical information and modelling data generated through the project will be of great interest to governments, public bodies, regulators and industry.”

Rune Thorsen, of Statoil, said: “Agreement of acceptance criteria between the operators and the Competent Authority, as recommended by SiteChar, are essential to build trust and promote development of a CO₂ storage project.”

Camilla Skriung, of ZERO, said: “It is crucial when introducing any new project to be transparent and have open dialogue, as well as to develop a project in a democratic way, as advocated by SiteChar.”

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