An integrated assessment of carbon dioxide capture and storage in the UK
Gough, C., Shackley, S., Holloway, S., Cockerill, T.T., Bentham, M., Bulatov, I., McLachlan, C. and Klemes, J. (2006) An integrated assessment of carbon dioxide capture and storage in the UK. In: Eighth Greenhouse Gas Abatement Technologies Conference (GHGT-8), Trondheim.
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Geological carbon dioxide storage (CCS) has the potential to make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of the UK. Amid concerns over maintaining security, and hence diversity, of supply, CCS could allow the continued use of coal, oil and gas whilst avoiding the CO2 emissions currently associated with fossil fuel use. This project has explored some of the geological, environmental, technical, economic and social implications of this technology. The UK is well placed to exploit CCS with a large offshore storage capacity, both in disused oil and gas fields and saline aquifers. This capacity should be sufficient to store CO2 from the power sector (at current levels) for a least one century, using well understood and therefore likely to be lower-risk, depleted hydrocarbon fields and contained parts of aquifers. It is very difficult to produce reliable estimates of the (potentially much larger) storage capacity of the less well understood geological reservoirs such as non-confined parts of aquifers. With the majority of its large coal fired power stations due to be retired during the next 15 to 20 years, the UK is at a natural decision point with respect to the future of power generation from coal; the existence of both national reserves and the infrastructure for receiving imported coal makes clean coal technology a realistic option. The notion of CCS as a ‘bridging’ or ‘stop-gap’ technology (i.e. whilst we develop ‘genuinely’ sustainable renewable energy technologies) needs to be examined somewhat critically, especially given the scale of global coal reserves. If CCS plant is built, then it is likely that technological innovation will bring down the costs of CO2 capture, such that it could become increasingly attractive. As with any capitalintensive option, there is a danger of becoming ‘locked-in’ to a CCS system. The costs of CCS in our model for UK power stations in the East Midlands and Yorkshire to reservoirs in the North Sea are between £25 and £60 per tonne of CO2 captured, transported and stored. This is between about 2 and 4 times the current traded price of a tonne of CO2 in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. In addition to the technical and economic requirements of the CCS technology, it should also be socially and environmentally acceptable. Our research has shown that, given an acceptance of the severity and urgency of addressing climate change, CCS is viewed favourably by members of the public, provided it is adopted within a portfolio of other measures. The most commonly voiced concern from the public is that of leakage and this remains perhaps the greatest uncertainty with CCS. It is not possible to make general statements concerning storage security; assessments must be site specific. The impacts of any potential leakage are also somewhat uncertain but should be balanced against the deleterious effects of increased acidification in the oceans due to uptake of elevated atmospheric CO2 that have already been observed. Provided adequate long term monitoring can be ensured, any leakage of CO2 from a storage site is likely to have minimal localised impacts as long as leaks are rapidly repaired. A regulatory framework for CCS will need to include risk assessment of potential environmental and health and safety impacts, accounting and monitoring and liability for the long term. In summary, although there remain uncertainties to be resolved through research and demonstration projects, our assessment demonstrates that CCS holds great potential for significant cuts in CO2 emissions as we develop long term alternatives to fossil fuel use. CCS can contribute to reducing emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere in the near term (i.e. peak-shaving the future atmospheric concentration of CO2), with the potential to continue to deliver significant CO2 reductions over the long term.
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