Potential for carbon storage industry endorsed

Rocks deep beneath the Moray Firth are capable of storing decades of CO2 output from Scotland's power stations

Carbon capture and storage processScotland can realise the employment, economic and environmental benefits of carbon storage, according to a report produced by a consortium of Scottish Government, industry and researchers, including those at Heriot-Watt's Institute of Petroleum Engineering.

It shows that shown that rocks deep beneath the Moray Firth are capable of storing decades of CO2 output from Scotland's power stations. This emerging carbon capture and storage (CCS) industry could create at least 13,000 new Scottish jobs by 2020.

These are key findings of the report, "Progressing Scotland's CO2 storage opportunities", which has been unveiled at a media launch hosted by Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS), in which Heriot-Watt is a partner, and the Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather.

Detailed research calculates that rock, known as the Captain Sandstone, buried more than half a mile beneath the Moray Firth could store at least 15 years, and potentially a century's worth of CO2 output from Scotland's power industry.

This is an exciting and landmark moment in the development of carbon capture and storage
Professor Eric Mackay, SCCS and Heriot-Watt's Institute of Petroleum Engineering

Professor Eric Mackay, of SCCS and Heriot-Watt's Institute of Petroleum Engineering, said, "This is an exciting and landmark moment in the development of carbon capture and storage. The Captain Sandstone is just one of many rock formations filled with salt water in the central and northern North Sea. We have shown that this is a feasible site that could store massive amounts of CO2, helping the UK meet its targets for carbon emissions reduction. The future potential for this and other areas of the North Sea is immense."

Economic benefits to Scotland

The SCCS research, funded by Scottish Government and a group of businesses within the energy sector, also showed that carbon capture and storage could create 13,000 jobs in Scotland by 2020, and another 14,000 elsewhere in the UK, spread across a wide range of skills. This would increase in subsequent years.

Properly developed, the UK's share of worldwide carbon capture and storage business could be worth more than £10 billion a year by around 2025.

Leading the development of carbon capture & storage

Professor Mackay continued, "Our research indicates CO2 output captured from a fossil fuel-fired power station, like the existing plant at Longannet or Peterhead or any future capture projects such as at Hunterston, could be stored beneath the North Sea.

"The unique combination of government, industry and research capability provides Scotland with the opportunity to lead the way in the development of CCS. We look forward to further assessment of this and other parts of the North Sea to maximise the economic benefits."

Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather, who launched the report at a media conference in Edinburgh, said, "This latest research further strengthens Scotland's position as the number one location for CCS technology development and deployment in the world.

"In depleted oil and gas fields and in its natural geology, the North Sea has an amazing carbon storage potential - the largest offshore storage capacity in Europe - offering up the prospect of thousands of new low carbon jobs being created in Scotland as CCS technology develops.

"Today's report is welcome and underlines the need to move swiftly to seize the environmental benefits and economic opportunities from CCS."

Securing European funding

Scotland's potentially massive offshore CO2 storage capacity is of European significance. The European Union has specified that 3 of the 8 CCS demonstrator plants that it will fund under its multi-billion Euro demonstrator programme must inject into saline aquifers. The results from this study place Scotland in a strong position to secure future EU support for more detailed assessment of CO2 storage in saline aquifers.

The study was funded by the Scottish Government and commercial organisations with operational interests in Scotland, including:

  • Ayrshire Power Ltd (a Peel Energy company)
  • Doosan Babcock
  • National Grid
  • RWE npower
  • Schlumberger
  • Scottish and Southern Energy
  • ScottishPower
  • Senergy
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Shell U.K Limited
  • The Crown Estate
  • Wood Mackenzie