Researchers from the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) partnership have competitively won a share of £1.65 million to carry out crucial research that will support the commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage technology in the UK.
A total of 11 CCS research projects at universities across the UK were offered funding by the UK CCS Research Centre (UKCCSRC) as part of its first call for proposals. A further two projects are still under discussion.
Carbon capture and storage has the potential to significantly reduce global emissions of CO₂ by capturing the greenhouse gas from large emitters, such as power plants and industrial facilities, and storing it deep underground in geological formations.
Five out of the eleven successful projects involve researchers from SCCS, a partnership of Heriot-Watt University, British Geological Survey (BGS) and University of Edinburgh (UoE). Their research will cover the full CCS chain, from capturing and transporting CO₂ to defining the potential of North Sea CO₂ storage sites and developing processes for monitoring long-term storage.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS director, said:
It's important that gaps in current knowledge are filled quickly, and this funding will help the SCCS partnership contribute to the research needed by industry and government in order to fully realise the potential of CCS in the UK. It is a testament to the quality and diversity of the SCCS partnership that we have been so successful in so many topics across such a wide range."
The projects funded fall within the three main areas of CCS research capture, transport and storage. Dr Maria-Chiara Ferrari of University of Edinburgh will lead a £73,000 project to develop membranes, which can capture CO₂ from the flue gases of facilities burning fossil fuels (Project title: Mixed matrix membranes preparation for post-combustion capture).
Dr Ferrari said:
We'll be looking at innovative composite solid membranes for separating CO₂. We will combine the favourable separation characteristics of organic and inorganic materials to avoid the need for potentially dangerous solvents, and creating a smaller carbon footprint. These mixed matrix membranes will also require less maintenance and less energy, which means potential reductions in cost for post-combustion capture."
Dr Samuel Holloway, of BGS, will lead a £290,000 project to prepare a drilling bid to contribute to the development of major potential CO₂ storage sites in the Northern and Central North Sea. He will be joined by UoE's Dr Mark Wilkinson and Dr Maxine Akhurst, of BGS, who are both SCCS partners (Project title: CO₂ storage in Palaeogene and Neogene hydrogeological systems of the North Sea: preparation of an IODP scientific drilling bid).
Dr Holloway said:
Our research will inform the selection of a site suitable for scientific drilling to maximise the yield of information relevant to geological storage of CO₂ in subsurface strata in the North Sea. The project will provide the detailed information needed to reassure future investors of the character and nature of the reservoir and seal rock strata at potential UK storage sites. Equivalent strata are already in use for the geological storage of CO₂ in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea."
Meanwhile, UoE's Dr Mark Naylor will lead a £58,000 project to assess the potential for a second phase of offshore monitoring of the behaviour and effect of CO₂ leakage on the marine environment. The first phase is being led by research partners Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Project title: Scoping Project for QICS2).
Dr Naylor said:
This research will provide an information base that will inform a potential second phase of offshore monitoring. We will also engage with the community and other stakeholders, as before, in order to guide our work. Monitoring the behaviour and effect of CO₂ leakage is a key element of assessing any risks associated with future geological storage."
Dr Stella Pytharouli, from the University of Strathclyde, will head up a £73,000 project using nanoseismic technology to three-dimensionally map CO₂ migration pathways at a live storage site in Canada, the Aquistore project (Project title: 3D mapping of large-scale subsurface flow pathways using nanoseismic monitoring).
Dr Pytharouli said:
Our research will provide important information on potential migration pathways within the CO₂ storage complex to inform future monitoring strategies at Aquistore and future storage sites. The development of a technology for characterisation of flowing networks contributes to developing a safety case for a site, and positively influences public and regulator confidence in geological CO₂ storage by reducing uncertainty in the identification of potential leakage pathways to the surface."
Newcastle University's Dr Julia Race will head up a £220,000 project that will provide guidelines on the flexible operation of networks that will be used to transport CO₂ from capture facilities to storage sites specifically looking at managing variations in volume and flow of CO₂. She will be joined by Dr Hannah Chalmers, of UoE, as co-investigator (Project title: Flexible CCS Network Development (FleCCSnet)).
More details about the projects can be found on UKCCSRC's website.