Brussels, 18 April 2002
The underground storage of carbon dioxide could help Europe to meet future Kyoto emissions trading targets, according to the leader of an EU-funded project at the Sleipner field in the North Sea
Tore Torp of Norway's Statoil firm says the technology being developed at the site, the first ever industrial scale carbon dioxide storage project, could provide a practical alternative to carbon dioxide capture in power stations.
An EU study carried out in 1996 estimated that the capacity for underground storage within Europe could reach more than 800 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The SACS (Saline aquifer carbon dioxide storage) project, currently funded under the 'Energy, environment and sustainable development' priority of the EU's Fifth Framework programme for research, began in 1998 with 500,000 euro of funding for the first two years and a further 740,000 euro for the period 2000 to 2002.
The project will collect data and conduct experiments at Sleipner and produce a good practice manual on the feasibility of carbon dioxide storage in other areas and industries.
At Sleipner, carbon dioxide is compressed under 73 atmospheres of pressure, which turns it from gas to liquid form. It then flows from the compressor to an injection well 1,000 metres deep. This squeezes the liquid gas into an underground storage chamber under the seabed filled with a thick, water-bearing sandstone. The liquid gas displaces the water and, over a period of two to three years absorbs into it in the same way as carbon dioxide is dissolved to make a fizzy drink.
Participants in the SACS project are cooperating with geophysical researchers at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia and the Weiburn project in Canada, where carbon dioxide is imported via a pipeline from the USA and used to squeeze oil from an underground chamber.
Mr Torp said a recent study has estimated that the cost of installing the best available carbon dioxide storage technology in the North Sea and using it to re-inject gas under the seabed would cost 40 euro per tonne of carbon dioxide. But he added that although the technology is currently expensive, the burden could be reduced to a manageable level by spreading the cost. 'As long as it's free to emit carbon dioxide, anything else would cost more,' he explained. He said industry and consumers must share the cost if Europe is to meet future emissions targets.
Mr Torp said contract negotiations have begun for a new Commission-funded project - CO2 Store - which will continue working on carbon dioxide storage under the next Framework programme for research, FP6. The project will build on the experience at the Sleipner field by examining other possible underground storage reservoirs in Europe.
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