The launch of a new centre of North Sea expertise today could boost jobs and growth in Scotland, accelerate development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and unlock three billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil from the North Sea – worth £190 billion.
The Centre for North Sea Enhanced Oil Recovery with CO2 (CENSEOR-CO2) will develop understanding of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology, and creates a commercial use for CO2 captured from power plants and industry.
The CO2-EOR Centre is being announced today (Wednesday) by First Minister Alex Salmond at the All-Energy conference in Aberdeen. The technology could store 75 million tonnes of CO2 from each power plant CCS project, and increase the amount of oil removed from reservoirs beneath the sea by five to 25 percent.
The process involves injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) gas into oilfields deep beneath the sea bed, to force out additional volumes of oil. To date, there has been no supply of CO2 to support implementation of industrial scale CO2-EOR in the North Sea, but UK carbon capture plans can change this. EOR technology has been used in North America for decades. In the UK, it can be used in tandem with carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that will capture the necessary quantities of CO2 emissions from power stations. The captured CO2 would be transported to the North Sea where it is injected into oilfields, forcing out additional oil, with the CO2 remaining permanently stored deep underground.
The Centre, involving experts from two universities, will have funding from Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government, matched by commercial funding from 2Co Energy Limited. It will operate within Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey.
The Edinburgh-based Centre will initially tackle the technical, regulatory, social and economic challenges of accelerating the widespread deployment of CO2-EOR technology across the North Sea.
The Centre is launched as initial findings from a report funded by Scottish Enterprise outline the potential economic benefits of enhanced oil recovery, which estimates that, under optimum conditions, the technology could increase direct output for the Scottish economy by £11.3bn, resulting in £2.7bn additional Gross Value Add and supporting more than 5,000 new jobs. Separate research, due to be completed shortly, also underlines the advantages of storing CO2 in the North Sea, and the importance of Peterhead as a key location with the potential to import 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year from CCS projects elsewhere.
Uptake of CCS technology could enable large volumes of CO2 to become available for the first time. In addition, Scotland’s economy could benefit from four UK CCS projects that will be applying for funding from the UK Government, two of which could utilise CO2-EOR.
Experts say that combining carbon capture and oil recovery technologies could cut the price of electricity generated by CCS by £30 per MW hour, comparable with onshore wind power.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh, who will lead the CO2-EOR Centre, said: “Our research will provide an independent voice to establish the conditions by which CO2-EOR can be made environmentally, commercially and technically feasible in the North Sea. This aims to sustainably extend and protect jobs in the offshore industries, whilst also enabling a smooth transition to developing low-carbon forms of energy.”
Lewis Gillies, Chief Executive Officer of 2Co Energy, said: “Our economy, energy security and environment will get a major boost from harnessing these two inter-dependent technologies. De-carbonising the UK’s energy supply will inevitably take decades, but the good news is both these smart technologies are available to us today. CO2-EOR will not only unlock new jobs and growth in Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry but will transform the commercialisation of UK carbon capture and storage from a long-term ambition to an affordable reality.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The Central North Sea is the key European location for the storing of CO2, captured from fossil fuel power stations and industrial emissions and Scotland will be responsible for licensing potentially up to 50 per cent of all of Europe's offshore geological storage.
"Clearly we are uniquely-placed to take advantage of this potentially game-changing technology, much of which is being pioneered in Scotland through the widely respected work of the SCCS group.
"The combination of this work with new research into developing CO2-EOR for the North Sea offers mutual benefits for CCS and oil recovery, including the prospect of considerable economies of scale to help drive forward CCS developments. That's why I am pleased that the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise are providing just over £200,000 over two years, alongside funding by 2C0, to establish the UK's first expertise Centre for CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery, to take forward this exciting development."
David Rennie, Oil and Gas Director at Scottish Enterprise, said: "Our new research has reinforced the fact that CO2-EOR offers significant economic and environmental opportunity for Scotland. With the largest carbon storage capacity in Europe and a competitive advantage in skills and infrastructure from our accomplished oil and gas sector, we have an opportunity to lead the way in commercialising offshore CO2-EOR on an industrial scale. This new centre will become a hub for collaboration across the energy sector to help realise CO2-EOR's true economic potential for Europe."
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