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Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is widely regarded as a key technology in the medium term to reduce carbon emissions from the energy industry during the transition to renewable energy generation, and in the longer term to decarbonise refining, iron and steel, cement, chemical and other industries. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), CCS is the most important technology option for reducing direct emissions from industry, with the potential to mitigate 2 to 2.5 Gigatonnes of CO2 per year globally by 2050. Achieving this target affordably requires a combination of cutting edge expertise in subsurface engineering and some very creative thinking.
Heriot-Watt University, along with partners University of Edinburgh and the British Geological Survey (BGS), were the founder members of Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) in 2005. However, CO2 as an injectant for EOR has been studied at Heriot-Watt University since the 1980s. Many projects have been conducted in collaboration with our partners in SCCS, and we also deliver projects in collaboration with other universities, consultancies and industrial partners. Funding has come from research councils, government agencies and industry, sometimes as one-to-one studies, but mainly through consortia.
Researchers in the CCS Group use experimental and numerical modelling techniques to address questions about CO2 injectivity, the mechanisms of oil mobilisation during CO2-EOR, CO2 migration and trapping from pore scale to basin scale, and the security of storage over thousands of years. These activities all contribute to a better understanding of the risk assessment, management, optimisation and cost reduction in CO2 injection operations.
The group draws heavily on expertise developed in petroleum engineering disciplines such as reservoir description, fluid phase behaviour, flow in porous media, geomechanics, geochemistry and flow assurance to tackle the current subsurface technical challenges facing CCS. Postgraduate students carry out research on the fundamental understanding of CO2 behaviours in the subsurface, and also on very applied studies, some of which use field data supplied by funders and partners. The tools used include core flooding equipment, micromodel visualisation cells, pore scale network models and commercial reservoir simulation suites such as CMG and ECLIPSE.
The group’s successes have included a CO2 leakage prevention technology developed by Professor Sohrabi being awarded a major prize in the Shell Springboard competition, and the group’s research has led to contributions to books, major reports that have achieved national and international prominence and numerous publications.