A report published today by the Global CCS Institute (GCCSI) once again confirms the North Sea as an ideal area for the storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) amongst potential global storage sites for the greenhouse gas. Previous work by Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) researchers and others suggests that capacity in the North Sea is sufficient for several decades worth of CO2 storage requirement for the whole of the European Union.
This finding supports the widely held view that a recent UK government announcement putting the brakes on CCS in the UK was a mistake. The COP21 climate talks in Paris last year saw the United Nations agree that greenhouse gases, including CO2 , must be eliminated from emissions or stored securely through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to avoid dangerous climate change. The UK should actively make use of North Sea assets for the secure geological storage of CO2.
The GCCSI report - Global storage portfolio: a global assessment of the geological CO2 storage resource potential - collates data from 55 countries covered by existing estimates of storage potential and gives clear "dashboard" indicators of the state of preparation for CCS in terms of storage technical readiness, policy and regulatory position.
The report shows that the UK is exceptionally well positioned to enact CO2 storage with technical assessment well advanced, and regulation and policy indicators near to full marks. This is no surprise to companies and researchers interested in CCS in the UK. They have consistently argued that the North Sea is an ideal location to demonstrate CCS technologies that would form the basis of a valuable new industry collecting and storing CO2 emissions from the UK and mainland Europe.
Despite the recent setback when HM Treasury withdrew "ring-fenced" funding from two leading demonstration projects, the North Sea CO2 storage industry could be established at relatively low cost and financial risk by using existing infrastructure from the declining oil and gas industry repurposed for CO2 handling and a flexible shipping solution for long distance transport. Several ongoing projects are looking to move forward with CCS demonstration in the UK, despite limited political support, with the aim of decarbonising electricity supply and industrial production.
In welcoming the GCCSI report, Professor Stuart Haszeldine, SCCS Director, said:
From the global compilation of data by the Global CCS Institute it is clear that, worldwide, there is plenty of CO₂ storage capacity that can be developed, many times that estimated by the International Energy Agency as needed by 2050. The storage potential beneath the seas around the UK is highlighted as exceptionally well known, understood and accessible, and this presents a real opportunity for Scotland and the UK which the Government should grasp. CCS in the UK is far from dead, and North Sea industries could be looking to widen their interests into a long-duration sustainable future of CO₂ storage, as well as concentrating on cost reductions in their existing businesses.