UK Government to Oil Industry: 'Cut Carbon Emissions by 30 Percent!'



Oil & Gas IQ
07/14/2010

Governments across the world are currently placing their focus on cutting their carbon emissions, while continuing to use oil and gas, in a bid to mitigate the effects of global warming.

The European Union is aiming for a reduction in carbon emissions of 20 percent by the year 2020; however, there are calls from the UK government for this to be increased to a 30 percent cut.

In the United States, proposals laid down in Senator John Kerry's controversial climate change bill are for a cut in carbon emissions of 17 percent by 2020.

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One method that is being explored to allow countries to still use oil and gas while cutting emissions, is the process of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and scientists are now working on new and innovative methods for this can be achieved.

Announcing the allocation of $154 million (£103.8 million) funding to a CCS project in Texas earlier this year, United States secretary of energy Steven Chu said: "Advancing our carbon capture and storage technology will create new jobs in America and reduce our carbon pollution output. It's another example of our country's innovation at work."

UK Investment in CCS

When the new UK coalition government came into power in May it made a pledge to invest in carbon capture and storage technologies. In its programme for government the coalition said it would publically fund the creation of CCS projects for four coal-fired power stations, as well as pledging to move away from oil and gas to more renewable sources.

However, calls are now coming for the UK to also invest in CCS technologies for gas-fired power stations. The switch from coal-fired to gas-fired power stations has been one of the main drivers behind the decrease in carbon emissions from the UK in recent years.

The influential Committee on Climate Change told the UK government that if it hopes to meet its targets for an 80 percent decrease in carbon emissions by the year 2050 it will need to cut the emissions from gas power plants.

It suggested that funding should be put in place for a demonstration project at one location in the country.

The Daily Telegraph quotes head of the committee Lord Turner as stating in the report: "[Decarbonising the power sector] will require a coherent approach to phasing out of conventional fossil fuel."

New CCS Developments for the Oil and Gas Industry

Researchers are also looking into technology which will help combat one of the key issues presented by CCS.

Fears have been expressed by some that leaks could occur if the gas is not stored correctly, reducing the benefits of CCS in combating carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like oil and gas.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory in the United States recently undertook tests in New Mexico to establish the success of a tracer device which would be able to track the progress of carbon stored underground.

Perfluorocarbon tracers (PFTs)–non-toxic, chemically inert clear colourless liquids- were deployed in the San Juan basin, which, according to the Department of Energy (DoE), is one of the most promising sites for coal-bed methane recovery in the world.

Results of the test show the method is successful and could help facilitate more widespread use of CCS in the United States near industries that use oil and gas.

"The tracer technology proved invaluable as a tool to improve modelling techniques vitally important in defining storage capacity, injection capability, flow rates and numbers of wells associated with sequestration sites," the DoE explained.

Scientists in Iceland have also been working on the issue of leakage, by carrying out tests to establish if the gas can be stored in a rock form.

Sigurdur Gislason of the University of Iceland recently presented the findings of tests at the Goldschmidt Conference hosted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The concept revolves around dissolving the gas in water and injecting it in basalt in southern Iceland at depths of 400 to 800 feet. The solution then percolates through the rock, dissolving minerals and forming solid carbonates, which allows the gas to be stored in rock form.

A pilot programme is now underway at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant in Iceland. Gislason believes that if this proves successful the method can be deployed where carbon is produced from the use of oil and gas.