Owners of depleted oil and gas fields offshore Britain could sell carbon storage space to neighbouring countries as pumping carbon captured from power plants out to sea would be better accepted by the public than burying it on land, academics said.
Britain’s depleted fields can store around 70 billion tonnes of carbon, while the UK’s own carbon capture and storage (CCS) programme would only require storage space for around 900 million tonnes of carbon by the mid-2020s.
CCS captures climate-warming emissions from power plants and stores the carbon underground, a technology which the UK government has singled out to help it meet legally-binding emissions reduction targets and which it wants to support with one billion pounds of public money.
“Offshore storage is of little public concern (…) the extra space could be sold to other countries,” said Professor Stuart Haszeldine, one of 18 authors at the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) who published a new study into the feasibility of CCS on Thursday.
Storing carbon under the sea has not been commercially proven in the UK even though other countries, such as Norway or Canada, have successfully stored the gas in offshore fields.
In Germany, capturing carbon and storing it below land was met with strong public opposition due to concerns for the environment and ultimately led to the collapse of a CCS support programme in the country.
Pumping retrieved CO2 into empty offshore fields is a mandatory condition for CCS plants which apply for British state funding and could also be an option for countries bordering UK waters.