Scotland’s offshore geology coupled with our existing oil and gas infrastructure provides us with an opportunity to store millions of tonnes of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. A chain of technologies has the potential to capture high levels of CO2 created by burning fossil fuels for power generation and industrial processes and store it deep below ground. World-class research into carbon capture and storage (CCS) is under way at ETP universities across Scotland.
ETP’s Carbon capture and storage expertise
The full chain
CCS involves three distinct operations – CO2 capture, transportation and injection into geological formations for long-term storage. Researchers at ETP universities across Scotland are engaged in interdisciplinary projects, which feed into efforts worldwide to see CCS operating at commercial scale.
A pool of expertise and state-of-the-art research facilities are being employed to develop close-to-commercial and next-generation capture materials and processes. Safe and efficient transportation, suitable storage sites, monitoring methods and the economics of CCS are also being explored alongside policy, public engagement and the required regulatory framework.
Carbon capture has been operating for several decades in certain sectors, such as natural gas production. Capture methods include the use of chemical solutions, such as amines and ammonia, or solid membranes. Recovery of the CO2 adds to power plant costs and reduces generation efficiency, so ETP researchers are now focusing on improving capture process efficiency and lowering costs. “Green” capture materials are being developed which use less energy and resources. Chemical modelling of capture plants and processes is also under way, including evaluating performance and flexibility.
The transport of large volumes of CO2 from capture plant to storage site will involve compressing the gas to form a supercritical fluid and the development of safe and efficient pipeline networks. Research in this area includes modelling transport networks and leakage scenarios, reducing compression energy requirements and evaluating pipeline sensors and measurement systems. The impact of impurities in the CO2 flow on pipeline integrity is also being assessed.
Storage and monitoring
Selecting the right geological site for CO2 storage is critical to ensure that, firstly, it has adequate capacity and, secondly, CO2 does not leak back into the environment. The development of storage sites must be economically feasible. Research at ETP universities has involved modifying petroleum and hydrocarbon geoscience (from geology and geo-engineering to subsurface fluid flow) and includes borehole design, injection technology, assessing any potential risks posed by multiple users and the equipment and methods needed for long-term monitoring.
Enhanced oil recovery
The use of CO2 in enhanced oil recovery provides an opportunity to put the gas, captured at facilities fed by fossil fuels, back underground. In order to do so, developers must understand how the CO2 will behave after injection. Laboratory facilities are being used for reservoir modelling, high pressure flow simulation and the evaluation of different injection strategies.
Few commercial-scale CCS projects currently exist and a lack of experience in regulatory matters could delay demonstration and full-scale projects in the UK. ETP researchers have been working with the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish Government and others to develop and test guidance for project developers. Work within ETP universities continues on providing analysis for the development of a national regulatory process for CCS.