GLASGOW, UK – A team at the University of Strathclyde has secured funds for a four-year project to study whether complex rock strata beneath the North Sea can trap carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) securely.
Their findings will help provide the tools for selecting the most suitable CO2 storage sites for a large-scale carbon capture and storage development, and could increase the potential for CO2 storage worldwide.
The study will examine how CO2, when injected into rocks deep below ground, could migrate upwards through the overlying strata, or overburden.
Greenhouse gases can become trapped by dissolving into water-filled spaces between the rock grains. In more complex geology, where the fluids flow through intricate, there may be greater potential for trapping CO2 as it rises, thereby minimizing the risk of it escaping to the surface.
However, fault zones cutting geological layers could provide shortcuts past the layers where CO2 could be trapped. The team will assess how the faults and rock strata interact to change the pathways for CO2 flow through the overburden.
They will work with other scientists in the UK from Cambridge and Imperial Universities and the British Geological Survey, as part of a larger research project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Professor Zoe Shipton, University of Strathclyde, who will lead the fault zone study, said: “The rock types found within fault zones will change depending on the rocks that they cut. By understanding how the fault rock types influence mechanisms such as capillary trapping, dissolution of CO2 in water and migration pathways, our work can guide strategies for quantifying and reducing the risks of CO2 leakage from geological storage sites.
“We will construct simplified models of flow along layered strata with cross-cutting faults, alongside our partners’ laboratory analogue experiments, in order to constrain the effect of geological complexity on the fate of CO2 leaking from a subsurface storage site.”
Additionally, the team will assess existing CO2 storage projects such as at the Sleipner field in the Norwegian North Sea to test their findings.
They claim there are many potentially suitable reservoirs for offshore CO2 storage in the UK North Sea.
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