Why is this research needed?
This work package aims to examine the feasibility of developing a pilot scale CO2 injection test site in the UK. Many other countries have developed their own CO2 injection test facilities (such as Germany, Spain, United States, Australia, Canada) and we believe that it would be beneficial for the UK to have its own as well. This would comprise a research facility to test typical UK storage reservoir rocks with experiments focussed on particular uncertainties in UK underground storage, and to develop a core of practical storage expertise in UK scientists. Ideally the research site would be situated in an area where CO2 is already available from industrial sources and where the potential for future larger scale offshore storage is present.
What is this research investigating?
Onshore CO2 injection labs act as locations to calibrate injection mode, or test new equipment. The UK has no CO2 facility. A UKCCSRC scoping study has provisionally identified the Ellesmere Port area as having viable subsurface geology for an onshore deep injection pilot project. The area offers local sources of CO2, topside facilities and a possible synergy with the NERC ESIOS subsurface monitoring project. Further characterisation of the subsurface geology will model a range of dynamic flow modelling scenarios in order to establish potential experimental configurations.
 Kilgallon R., Haszeldine R.S. 2016 Appraisal of the need, costs, technologies and licensing of a CO2 test injection site. UKCCSRC internal report
What does the research hope to achieve
Initial studies to identify suitable concepts were undertaken by UKCCSRC researchers, and co-funded by the British Geological Survey (BGS) under the UK GeoEnergy Observatories (UK GEOS) project. The outcome of these studies resulted in initiation of a new desktop study, currently being undertaken by BGS on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), to scope out the potential for a deep borehole carbon dioxide (CO2) storage research testbed.
Objectives include defining the options for future investment from UKRI and NERC in CO2 storage research by:
- outlining the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) landscape to provide the wider context for future investment decisions in CO2 storage research infrastructure;
- Gathering technical and business case evidence to de-risk these further investments;
- Focusing on engaging stakeholders to help define the required capabilities and scientific objectives of a CO2 storage testbed.
A range of design options for an onshore to offshore research testbed will be identified using preliminary technical and permitting evidence and will help provide the basis for recommendations that will inform future investment decisions in CO2 storage research infrastructure.
It is anticipated that a testbed would help to address knowledge gaps in geological CO2 storage, answering specific science questions around demonstrating long-term containment and the processes for the way a site is closed. It would provide an innovation platform on which to develop new techniques and equipment to improve monitoring; reduce costs; further enhance safe storage and open access to, and sharing of, data, for the benefit of the research community and storage developers. Non-technical developments would be enabled such as supporting wider public discussions of the merits of CO2 storage that are vital for underpinning future full-scale commercial systems; evidence would be provided for policymakers and regulators and data gathered would support appropriate regulation for the emerging CO2 storage industry. Crucially, the infrastructure would be publicly owned and would provide a facility for undertaking transparent research and innovation exploration.