New research from Australian gas fields could ‘pave the way’ for the safe development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the UK North Sea. Researchers from Edinburgh University claim their findings show that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can be “captured and securely stored beneath deep-seated and impermeable underground rocks”. CCS is a process which captures large quantities of carbon emissions and stores them underground, stopping them from being released into the atmosphere. Oil and gas pipelines could be used to store CO2 in rock formations under the North Sea. It is estimated region could store 75% of the UK’s CO2 emissions when coupled with carbon capture infrastructure. A similar project at Peterhead Power Station, backed by energy firms SSE and Shell, was scrapped by the UK Government in 2015.
Researchers claim he new findings in Australian provide further evidence that a developing CCS has been shown to be safe. The study focused on natural CO2 gas fields and CO2 mineral springs in south-east Australia to improve the understanding of how to safely store CO2 underground. By measuring traces of inactive natural gases, known as noble gases, found in the CO2 the study showed that, in both the gas fields and mineral springs, the CO2 had come from the same source, the Earth’s mantle.
Dr Ruta Karolyte, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We were able to show for the first time that noble gases remain very sensitive tracers of the source of CO2 even after it mixes with large volumes of water. “This means that we can use noble gas techniques to sensitively fingerprint stored CO2 once it is injected underground.”
Dr Stuart Gilfillan, who directed the study said: “Our work clearly shows the unique capability of using noble gases to monitor CO2 injected for geological storage. “This paves the way for safe storage of CO2 in old gas and oil fields, such as those present in the North Sea.”