Heriot-Watt team close to solving carbon dioxide storage problem

The North Sea has the capacity to store more than 200 years of carbon dioxide for the whole of western Europe

Academics from Heriot-Watt University's Institute of Petroleum Engineering have developed technology that identifies and seals leaks that could occur in carbon dioxide storage sites.

Diagram of Heriot-Watt University's carbon dioxide leak-prevention systemThe development is designed for companies looking to develop geological carbon dioxide storage sites. When implemented commercially, the technology could be worth tens of millions of pounds and be a crucial element of the fight against climate change.

The world-leading technology, which can search out leaks even before they have been detected at the surface injection site, has already undergone rigorous lab testing in a Scottish Enterprise funded Proof of Concept programme. Funding from a number of major oil and gas and power companies has been secured and a three year Joint Industry Project (JIP), paving the way for large scale field trials of the technology has just commenced.

Safe carbon capture & storage

Project Director Professor Mehran Sohrabi from the Institute of Petroleum and Engineering at Heriot-Watt University said the development had the potential to accelerate the adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS)  across the globe. The technology answers many of the public's concerns about the ability to safely store CO2. The project at Heriot-Watt will further test the technology and show its effectiveness in a range of typical settings.

"The North Sea has the capacity to store more than 200 years of CO2 for the whole of western Europe. We believe that we have now solved the problem of how to seal cracks or fissures in the porous rock that the carbon dioxide will be lodged in. It is a huge step forward for  CCS and one that could see Scotland established as a world leader in the field."

Large-scale trials

We believe that we have now solved the problem of how to seal cracks or fissures in the porous rock that the carbon dioxide will be lodged in. It is a huge step forward for carbon capture and storage

Professor Mehran Sohrabi, Institute of Petroleum Engineering

CO2  is produced when carbon based fuels are used to generate power and the Heriot-Watt team, led by Professor Sohrabi, believe they have now answered one of the key concerns of sub-surface storage. Heriot-Watt's project partners see this project as an important part in the development of intrinsically secure underground  CO2 storage. This will help gain the public acceptance necessary for large scale CCS.

He continued, "This hugely exciting development draws on the Institute of Petroleum Engineering at Heriot-Watt University's world-class understanding of the behaviour of CO2 in oil and gas reservoirs. The large scale trials that have now commenced will be a significant step forward in helping to capture and safely store millions of tonnes of  CO2 every year. The environmental benefits will be massive and we are proud that the technology has been developed here in Scotland."