Study reveals Scotland's carbon capture and storage potential

14 March 2011 by Marion O'Sullivan

The rocks deep beneath the Moray Firth could store decades' worth of carbon dioxide from Scotland's power stations, a report reveals today.

Carbon dioxide

This emerging carbon capture and storage industry could create thousands of new jobs within the next few years, and bring many economic and environmental benefits to the UK.

The research calculates that rock buried more than half a mile beneath the Moray Firth and known as 'the Captain Sandstone' could store at least 15 years' worth of CO2, and more likely as much as a century's worth.

Maxine Akhurst from the British Geological Survey is the project leader for the research, carried out by Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS).

"Even if you apply the most stringent geological conditions, the worst case scenario will mean that we could store 15 years' worth in a single sandstone, and there are a number of the Captain Sandstones suitable for storing CO2 beneath the North Sea," she says.

"The sandstones are huge," adds Akhurst. "A depleted oil field is the size of a large city so, in comparison, a small sandstone would be the size of a county such as Hampshire, and a large sandstone would be about the size of Belgium."

Carbon capture

Schematic diagram illustrating the main stages of the Carbon Capture and Storage process.

Professor Eric Mackay from SCCS agrees that the site is feasible for storing massive amounts of CO2, and says it would help the UK meet its targets for reducing its carbon emissions. "This is an exciting and landmark moment in the development of carbon capture and storage." he says. "The future potential for this and other areas of the North Sea is immense."

"This latest research further strengthens Scotland's position as the number-one location for CCS technology development and deployment in the world," says Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather, who launched the report in Edinburgh today. "In depleted oil and gas fields and in its natural geology, the North Sea has an amazing carbon storage potential - the largest offshore capacity in Europe - offering up the prospect of thousands of new low-carbon jobs being created in Scotland as CCS technology develops."

He adds that the report "underlines the need to move swiftly to seize the environmental benefits and economic opportunities from CCS."

The research showed that carbon capture and storage could create around 13,000 jobs in Scotland by 2020 and another 14,000 elsewhere in the UK, spread across a wide range of skills. Properly developed, the UK's share of worldwide carbon capture and storage business could be worth more than £10bn a year by about 2025.

The work was funded by the Scottish Government and a number of commercial organisations with operational interests in Scotland.