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Engineering a better world | Carbon Capture and Storage

emissions 2 Cropped

We interview Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Sarah Tennison about proposals for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

CCS is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants and industrial processes, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, in this case in an underground geological formation below the North Sea.

Teesside Collective’s proposed CCS network in Tees Valley will help remove damaging carbon dioxide from its vital process and chemical industries. There is growing pressure on industry to decarbonise. Of opportunities to do so, CCS is the only technology available to significantly reduce industrial carbon emissions with no change to the production plant.

Teesside Collective is a cluster of major employers in Teesside, including Lotte Chemical UK, BOC, CF Fertilisers, Sembcorp Utilities UK and SABIC UK, working together to establish Teesside as one of Europe’s most attractive locations for future clean industrial development. It is co-ordinated by Tees Valley Combined Authority, and supported by Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and the industrial cluster NEPIC.

With one of the highest concentrations of industry in the country, and located close to North Sea carbon storage sites, a CCS network in Teesside is one of the cheapest forms of carbon abatement in the UK economy.

Having CCS in place in Teesside also provides the option for further policy decisions the Government might want to make including decarbonising heat and transport with hydrogen, which is not possible without CCS infrastructure.

Engineers have already engineered many of the solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals… we already have the solutions on the table, it’s about deploying those solutions  

Tees Valley Combined Authority technology and innovation manager Sarah Tennison

CCS technology is well tested and is already successfully capturing nearly 4M.t CO2 per year from 22 industrial sites around the world, particularly popular in Norway and the USA. Sleipner, in Norway, is an active offshore gas field where CO2 is separated from the gas produced and reinjected in the Utsira saline aquifer (between 800m and 1000m below ocean floor) above the hydrocarbon reservoir zones. This began in 1996 and around 600bn tonnes of CO2 are expected to be stored, continuing long after the extraction of natural gas has ended.

In the UK, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), a public-private partnership between government and major industry, completed an assessment of offshore CO2 storage and concluded that there was enough UK CO2 storage for more than 50 years even from the limited stores that have been appraised.

The engineering solutions already exist, but what is holding this development back in the UK? Sarah explained that what is needed is deployment at scale and the main challenges at the moment are commercial.

Emissions jpg

Emissions jpg



CCS will contribute to achieving many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including:

  • 13 – Climate Action. It is widely accepted that the increased concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere has led to warming of the upper atmosphere causing changes in climate around the world. To try to slow these changes we need to rapidly reduce the amount of carbon we are emitting, and CCS could help to decarbonising carbon intensive industries
  • 7 – Clean energy. In the UK we still get most of our energy form fossil fuels, which when extracted, processed and burnt generate huge amount of carbon dioxide. The UN has called for decarbonisation of the energy industry – CCS could help achieve that while we build up our renewables base.11 – Sustainable cities. Cities grow around jobs and industrial centres. For our cities to be sustainable we need to reduce their carbon emissions.
  • 9 – Industry and innovation. CCS utilise existing infrastructure, but will also require new infrastructure to be developed to create efficiency and clusters of industries all combining their CO2 for storage. Innovation in CCS will help to reduce costs and improve efficiency, so this will play a vital role in the role out of CCS in Tees Valley.
  • 12 – Responsible consumption. The UK emits approximately 7.1 tons of CO2 per capita (2013) compared to less than 1 ton of CO2 per capita that is release by most African countries. We are not consuming responsibly, and with the gradual industrialisation and economic growth of these less polluting nations, we will need to reign in our consumption to balance the scales.

SDG Sarah Tennison flow

SDG Sarah Tennison flow

So how can the ICE help? Sarah explained that very few people know about carbon capture and storage. I tested this and asked a few colleagues and I was surprised to find that many thought it had never been proven to work, and that it was rather the unicorn of the engineering world. Well, we have proof that this unicorn is ready and raring, so let’s raise the profile of CCS and start capturing that carbon.

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