Flexible Funding 2023: Dr Marius Dewar, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Monitoring Integrated Digital Support Tool – for CO2 and brine leakage detection in UK waters (MIDST-UK)


Key facts about this Flexible Funding research project

Institution: Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Department: -
Start date: 1 October 2023
Principal investigator: Dr Marius Dewar
Co-Investigators: -
Amount awarded by UKCCSRC: £30,000

Why is this research needed?

Optimised marine monitoring policies for CCS projects aim to ensure the safe and effective implementation of the technology.

Pressure management of reservoirs used for carbon dioxide storage may be a key component of maintaining caprock and reservoir integrity of the storage complex, and thereby storage capacity. Where storage utilizes saline aquifers, pressure management may potentially require production of reservoir brines and their dispersion in over-lying seawater or reinjection to a secondary storage facility. Further to this, natural pathways from reservoirs may release brines via legacy wells or other mechanisms, also providing natural pressure management of the reservoir. Whilst the characteristics of these brines vary greatly, some may be hypersaline (exceeding 200 PSU), hot (exceeding 50C), anoxic and/or with elevated levels of contaminants such as heavy metals. In their undiluted form, such brines have the potential to be detrimental to ecosystems. However, dispersion and dilution in well-mixed shelf sea environments act to reduce this impact potential.

In MIDST-UK – an open source, user friendly, pre-operational Decision Support Tool (DST) developed in collaboration with eight international partners and a high level of interaction with stakeholders – will be extended to also include brine release (high salinity, high temperature and varied contaminants) for impact assessment, monitoring and detection criteria. The DST effectively develops a digital twin of a site based on big data analysis, then enables the operator to explore different sensitivity thresholds and determines an optimal sensor deployment strategy, based on local hydrodynamics and seabed features. The DST can design a site-specific marine monitoring programme that ultimately enables operators and regulators to quantifiably assess that proposed monitoring strategies deliver an acceptable standard of assurance for stakeholders.

What is this research investigating?

  1. Integration of our expertise in hypersaline releases (brine at high salinity, high temperature and varied contaminants including heavy metals) to develop a specific hypersaline brine tracer within the Decision Support Tool (DST) for potential UK CCS sites to suggest the best locations for monitoring for both potential natural release locations, and intentional releases from producers to assist in well pressure management; alongside monitoring for CO2 within the water column.
  2. Big data collection and analysis for potential UK CCS sites, required to provide input to develop a digital twin of each area within the DST, giving the best possible representation of the area including hydrodynamic, ecosystem and geological data from a range of sources such as publicly available models, satellite data and public records.
  3. Report on carbon dioxide and hypersaline release case studies within the relevant UK waters, enabling operators to plan, cost and adapt effective environmental monitoring strategies to site specific circumstances at speed whilst minimizing cost, but also enables regulators and operators to communicate the effectiveness of proposed monitoring strategies to enable informed societal consensus in view of marine spatial planning.

What does the research hope to achieve?

An open access Decision Support Tool (DST) for marine monitoring of CCS sites, that can benefit the academic community in many ways.

Through the DST, researchers can explore monitoring technologies, big data analysis and interpretation, risk assessment, and environmental impacts. Due to the use of big data as a digital twin, the DST is very fast at running many different scenarios without the need for multiple runs of high-performance computers, using a high-quality input rather than re-running several models and simulations for different scenarios. This tool can contribute to the development of new monitoring methods, improve monitoring accuracy and efficiency, and enhance understanding of both CO2 and brine release behaviour.

The DST creates opportunities for collaboration between academic institutions, industry and research organizations. The original DST was developed by an international community including UK, Norway, USA, and the Netherlands. The tool is open source for others to use as they see fit; or can collaborate, sharing our data and expertise in developing the tool, working together to address technical challenges and improve monitoring practices, promoting interdisciplinary research.

By analysing outputs from the DST, environmental assessments can be conducted and, studying the effectiveness of monitoring strategies, researchers can provide valuable insights and recommendations to inform policy decisions, where their expertise can help shape regulations that ensure effective monitoring and environmental protection.

By publishing research findings and sharing insights at conferences and webinars, this exchange benefits both academia and the wider CCS community, reaches those not necessarily in our immediate professional circle who are already aware of the work we are doing, and accesses researchers in other disciplines and other academic institutions.

Research outputs

This research is ongoing. Outputs will be shared below as they become available.