CCS technology ripe for debate among UK geologists



Clockwise from top left: Bill Spence; Dr Jennifer Roberts; considering the role of CCS in climate mitigation actions; Prof Iain Stewart with expert panel as debate gets under way

Arguments for and against carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology often focus on the cost of capturing CO₂ or the policy mechanisms needed to drive deployment. For tectonics researchers meeting in Edinburgh last week, however, the headline issue was the role of structural geology in ensuring that anthropogenic CO₂ piped deep underground remains there.

The three-day conference of the Tectonics Studies Group, which has been held every year since 1970, featured a "Question Time" CCS debate during the second day. It was chaired by geologist and TV presenter, Prof Iain Stewart, and began with scene-setting talks from leading CCS experts. After a somewhat gentle start for the panel, delegates stepped up the pace with questions on enhanced oil recovery, the need for adequate monitoring methods and the integrity of seals in the Goldeneye storage site earmarked for the Peterhead CCS Project in north east Scotland.

If the organisers expected discussions to remain technical, it soon became apparent that the largely academic audience shared many of the wider public's concerns. As the session progressed, the debate shifted to carbon pricing, how governments can play a part in changing patterns of energy use and whether the UK as a whole still needed a "sit-up-and-notice" event to drive home the need to tackle global carbon emissions.

Prior to the debate, delegates heard from Prof Jon Gluyas of Durham University, who provided an overview of CCS progress as well as an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses as a climate change technology. Prof Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh, described how research in the field of tectonics and structural geology is crucial to the success of CO₂ storage. And delegates unfamiliar with the two large-scale CCS demonstration projects under way in the UK learned more about the Peterhead CCS project from Shell's Bill Spence. Taking a different perspective, Dr Jennifer Roberts of the University of Strathclyde then discussed the role of public perception and acceptance in delivering CCS projects both in the UK and elsewhere.

Tectonic Studies Group

The annual meeting of the Tectonic Studies Group, the UK's top event for research into structural geology and tectonics, was held this year at the University of Edinburgh. The three-day event showcased a wide range of research alongside opportunities for discussion, including the CCS debate. The meeting was jointly organised by the University of Edinburgh, British Geological Survey, the National Museum of Scotland and Heriot-Watt University.

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