The term “Energy Transition“ has, in the past five years, more than tripled in frequency of Google online searches. The public interest is clearly there, and despite having achieved already what would be considered a quantum leap in policies, funding, technologies and public engagement, many question whether the #energy industry is yet doing enough to meet the scale of the climate challenge.
The majority of Net Zero plans involve a combination of increased energy efficiency, alternative (carbon-free) energy sources and mechanisms to remove unavoidable carbon releases from the atmosphere.
Carbon removal from the atmosphere can take many forms – for example planting trees, developing farming practices to increase carbon in soils or introducing ocean plants, seaweed and phytoplankton. Ideas and technology in this area are progressing at incredible rates, however the longevity of storage from these types of processes can be limited and fragile as the carbon stored remains proximal to the atmosphere and vulnerable to re-release e.g. through forest fires in the case of tree plantations. These processes are also not universally applicable and may not align well with the environment in which the carbon is being released – for example growing forests or phytoplankton farms in a desert environment is not a feasible solution.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a method focused on the idea of achieving permanent removal of #CO2 from the atmosphere by storing it in deep subsurface structures. These storage sites may be deep saline aquifers or depleted oil & gas reservoirs. The oil & gas industry has a long experience of injecting CO2 into oil fields in a process known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). The primary focus of this technique, as the name suggests, is to enhance the oil recovery from a field. However, in recent years, projects with a primary focus on long term CO2 storage have begun to emerge using similar technologies.
So why has CCS taken so long to emerge as a technology? A key reason often cited is the political and commercial challenge of determining how projects are funded, but setting that (major) issue aside for a moment, there is also a less well quoted challenge – identifying where in the world to best locate a project. When embarking on this challenge many fundamental questions confront any analyst – Where are there large sources of CO2 which are easily captured? How can we transport the CO2? Where are low risk subsurface reservoirs in which we can store large volumes of CO2? How can we cost effectively get the CO2 into the ground in this location? What is the total storage potential of the site? In isolation, these questions can take significant time and resources to answer comprehensively. But, thankfully, we do not have to start from scratch.
Subsurface reservoir databases are a critical tool heavily utilised within the oil and gas industry. The ethos behind current database utilisation is that we can use data to learn from the experiences of others, draw empirical correlations and accurately estimate risks within a potential project. Ultimately, improve the allocation of resources to achieve better outcomes.
The world of CCS is in its infancy and although limited, there is a pool of past CCS specific projects to draw data derived insight from. The fundamental questions are: Is the subsurface geology appropriate for the development? What are the risks? How do I transport? What is the cost? This will resonate with all upstream professionals as they are the very same questions needing to be answered when looking to optimally develop oil and gas fields. Significantly, evolving world class #reservoir databases can provide meaningful answers.
Applying data derived insight is becoming an invaluable springboard for the process of screening potential CCS sites. Rather than waiting for commercial models to be designed before initiating projects, operators could define low risk, high potential sites and proactively propose projects to governments. This would enable them to capture latent value through fast tracking a policy framework.
Belltree is designing tools and workflows combining the extensive subsurface database of bMark™ with CCS specific data e.g., CO2 source data and risking matrix analysis to support the effort in achieving crucial Net Zero targets; fast-tracking the development of CCS sites. Learn more: https://belltreegroup.co.uk/energy-transition/
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