UK can support Europe's carbon-intensive regions from early 2020



Research partners from the UK, the Netherlands and Norway have revealed the UK can support some of Europe's carbon-intensive regions from as early as the 2020s.

The study shows how this could be achieved through a phased roll-out of an economical, low-risk North Sea CO2 transport and storage infrastructure.

The ground-breaking Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project involved academics from Heriot-Watt University, University of Aberdeen and The University of Edinburgh, as well as industry experts.

The findings to be revealed at Westminster today, include:

- The UK's existing North Sea oil and gas transport infrastructure coupled with an impressive natural CO2 storage resource offers significant benefits and value.

- Careful screening around just three strategically important pipelines reveals at least 16 suitable storage sites, with the most promising two potentially providing a storage resource for over 650 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2, which could be in use from as early as 2023. 

- The deep-water port at Peterhead can import CO2 by ship from the UK and Europe. With a maximum throughput of 16Mt of CO2 annually, this facility could enable carbon capture in many other regions around the UK and the North Sea.

- This early start to decarbonising high-emitting regions can then be expanded in a phased and low-cost manner through the use of this national and European CO2 CCS network.

- The reuse of legacy oil and gas infrastructure as part of the Acorn CCS project will save around £648 million compared to the cost of new build. This brings a significant saving to the taxpayer in decommissioning alone.

- Decarbonisation of the UK gas grid – for heat and transport – is possible by producing hydrogen from natural gas with CCS at St Fergus, where 35% of all UK natural gas comes onshore.

- Citizens in high-emitting industrial areas look to governments to enable a just transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to an environmentally sustainable future. [Info: CCS and a Just Transition]

- In all three life cycle assessment scenarios (overall carbon footprint) the Acorn CCS project is predicted to bring major carbon reductions and lower the impact of greenhouse gases on health and ecosystems.

- Knowledge derived from the ACT Acorn project will be invaluable for similar developments in other North Sea regions and further afield where legacy oil and gas operations are in place.

Heriot-Watt University's contribution was to assist with the identification of potential storage sites within range of existing infrastructure, and to use existing knowledge from oil and gas activities to predict the capacity and the security of two of the identified potential stores. 

Professor Eric Mackay said: “Heriot-Watt University was delighted to be involved in this exciting research which reveals ample and secure storage for over 650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in two potential sites beneath the North Sea.

“This is quite a find and if action is taken soon, reuse of legacy infrastructure from the oil and gas industry before it is decommissioned, could save the project £648 million.”