Storage capacity and containment issues for carbon dioxide capture and geological storage on the UK continental shelf

Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be stored in geological formations beneath the UK continental shelf (UKCS) as a greenhouse gas mitigation option. It can be trapped in subsurface reservoirs in structural or stratigraphic traps beneath cap rocks, as a residual CO2 saturation in pore spaces along the CO2 migration path within the reservoir rock, by dissolution into the native pore fluid (most commonly brine), by reaction of acidified groundwater with mineral components of the reservoir rock, or by adsorption onto surfaces within the reservoir rock, e.g. onto the carbonaceous macerals that are the principal components of coal. Estimates of the CO2 storage capacity of oil and gas fields on the UKCS suggest that they could store between 1200 and 3500×106 t of CO2 and up to 6100×106 t CO2, respectively. Estimating the regional CO2 storage potential of saline water-bearing sedimentary rocks is resource-intensive and no UK estimates have yet taken into account all the factors that should be considered. Existing studies estimate the pore volume and the likely CO2 saturation in the closed structures in a potential reservoir formation but do not take account of the potentially limiting regional pressure rise likely to occur as a result of the very large-scale CO2 injection that would be necessary to make an impact on national emissions. There is undoubtedly great storage potential in the saline water-bearing reservoir rocks of the basins around the UK, but the real challenge for studies of aquifer CO2 storage capacity in the UK is perhaps not to estimate the total theoretical CO2 storage capacity, as this is not a particularly meaningful number. Rather it is to thoroughly investigate selected reservoirs perceived to have good storage potential to a standard where there is scientific consensus that the resulting storage capacity estimates are realistic. This will allow it to be considered as closer to the status of a reserve rather than a resource and will help define the scope for CO2 capture and storage in the UK.