UK explores burying global warming problem under the North Sea

The UK’s first carbon capture and storage program could be up and running as soon as the early 2020s.

Carbon capture storage (CCS) is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and contributing to the greenhouse effect. Now, ahead of a summit in Edinburgh, plans are underway for a CCS project to take place in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland.   

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The project is being delivered by Pale Blue Dot, which aims to have pipelines and storage points for CO2 operational in the early 2020s. The Acorn project will use existing pipelines leading from Peterhead to the North Sea, reducing costs and saving build time. The ambition is to store 200,000 tonnes of CO2 under the sea bed, which will offset the carbon footprint of around 40,000 UK people. It’s a start, but bear in mind the UK’s population is around 66 million: we’ve still got some way to go.

On the project webpage, Pale Blue Dot claims that Acorn will be the smallest industrially viable CCS project possible. This allows for cost saving while learning the operational nuances of storing CO2. They go on to claim that the Acorn project will be used to plant the CCS seed in the UK.

This arguably extreme measure of storing gas under the sea is now gaining ground, particularly in light of recent findings which suggest humanity is off the pace with the plan finalised in Paris back in 2015. Scientists, politicians and even environmentalists have consequently been forced to re-consider various different solutions for saving our planet.

Speaking at the Edinburgh summit, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said that “the UK is setting a world-leading ambition for developing and deploying carbon capture and storage technology to cut emissions,” referring to the technology as “game-changing.”

Although, with the UK relying less and less on fossil fuels, there’s a need for CCS to produce energy, as well as store CO2. This next phase is called Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) and provides hydrogen from the CCS process, which can then be used to heat homes. CCUS is gaining a great deal of support from politicians, with the UK government has boasted a potential £20 million investment in CCUS technologies.

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Given the UK should be winding down its reliance on fossil fuels it’s questionable whether the time and money committed to CCS and CCUS is well spent, an opinion felt by Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland. He argues that the UK government “should be spending its money on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage, all of which deliver immediate reductions in carbon emissions.”

Whether you subscribe to this view or not, it is at least encouraging to see the UK government taking its climate change commitments more seriously. Burying CO2 under the ocean bed is still a better look than sweeping the problem under the rug.

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