A public-private partnership is to carry out work to boost confidence in the carbon capture and storage (CCS) concept.
The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) – run by a range of firms and government departments – launched its Impact of Brine Production on Aquifer Storage project.
The nine-month, £200,000 initiative aims to show how brine can be removed from potential carbon stores such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs to boost their capacity.
Pressure has built on the government following its cancellation late last year of a £1bn competition designed to get CCS working on a commercial scale.
A group of bodies including engineering representatives wrote in January to prime minister David Cameron demanding he set out his strategy for supporting CCS. The cross-party Energy and Climate Change Committee last month said ministers should publish a fresh strategy by the summer.
ETI members include BP, EDF Energy, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
ETI CCS project manager Paul Winstanley said: “Although the UK government is no longer pursuing its CCS demonstration competition, ETI’s view remains that CCS offers long-term the lowest cost solution to meeting the UK’s legally binding 2050 climate change targets.
“One of our roles at the ETI is to help build knowledge and understanding around the challenges and benefits of CCS to ensure there is a robust evidence base in place allowing decisions to be made.
“The work of this project should continue to demonstrate the role CCS should play in a long-term transition to a low carbon energy system.”
Work on the brine project will be carried out by Heriot-Watt University and Element Energy with support from T2 Petroleum Technology and Durham University.
Professor Eric Mackay from Heriot-Watt University said more brine than oil had been produced from North Sea oil reservoirs.
”This brine is cleaned to conform to environmental regulations and then either displaced to sea or reinjected into subsurface rock formations,” he explained. “Seawater is also injected into oil reservoirs to maintain the pressure while the oil is being produced and also maximise oil recovery.
”This project will investigate the potential to do the reverse – produce brine to prevent the pressure increasing during CO2 injection. This will reduce the risk of leakage, increase the amount of CO2 that individual wells can inject and increase the storage capacity of the whole system – potentially by a factor of three to four times.
“As a result, fewer wells overall will be required, and fewer sites may be required to store the same amount of CO2 – with clear benefits in terms of reduced cost of appraisal, drilling, operation and monitoring. Provided existing regulations on water quality are adhered to, the environmental footprint of CO2 injection will also be reduced.”