CCS Information Sheets

What is CCS?

By Timothy Wilson

1 May 2023

Uncover the truth about Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Get the facts with these information sheets.

Oil refinery at night.

These information sheets reveal all you need to know about carbon capture and storage (CCS). You can learn about the different technologies involved, why underground storage of CO2 is safe and what role CCS can play in a net zero transition.

Setting the scene: climate change

As we all know, weather can change every day, when we talk about the ‘climate’ and specifically ‘climate change’ we are talking about long term averages and patterns, usually of at least three decades, if not more. Climate change refers to long-term changes in these averages, and includes factors such as rainfall and temperature. Climate change can lead to an increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as the floods of 2007 which affected many areas of the UK

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A brief history of CCS and it’s current status

This information sheet provides a brief history of the development of CO2 capture and storage (CCS), and describes the different types of project. The important thing to take from this information sheet, is that although CCS is technically a relatively new technology, what CCS does is use existing, well proven technologies in new and innovative ways; the various parts of the process have been used extensively in other processes for decades in industry

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Capturing carbon dioxide

In order to store CO2 , first we need to capture it. There is a lot of research being undertaken both into improving existing processes, and developing new methods of capture, but currently there are three main methods of CO2 capture which capture the CO2 either before combustion (burning) of the fuel, after it, or by combusting the fuel in a different environment, and these are described below.

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Transporting of CO2

Transport is a necessary stage in the CO2 capture and storage (CCS) chain as it is not common for power stations to be built in close proximity to potential storage formations, especially as many storage options are off-shore. Pipelines and ships are therefore needed to transport the CO2 from the source to the storage area.

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Storing CO2 Underground

Once the CO2 has been captured and transported to a suitable storage site, we need to ensure that it will stay underground. There are several mechanisms that ensure the storage is permanent, and this information sheet aims to describe these in broad terms.

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Matching sources to stores

The aim of this information sheet is to look at one of the constraints on CO2 capture and storage (CCS). In theory it sounds simple; capture CO2 from power plants, store it in underground storage formations. But what if there aren’t any nearby? Is there enough storage in the world? This sheet will answer these points

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Naturally occurring CO2

Natural CO2 reservoirs exist underground in normal circumstances, and these naturally occurring stores of CO2 have securely held the CO2 in place for thousands, or even millions of years. These natural CO2 stores have been extensively studied, and the knowledge gained has been incredibly useful in estimating the storage potential and learning about trapping mechanisms for CO2 capture and storage (CCS). The knowledge gained from this allows scientists to predict the behaviour of stored CO2 , and gives the ability to perfect monitoring technologies that can then be applied to CCS.

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Monitoring CO2

At the heart of any permission, license or other regulatory allowance to carry out a CO2 capture and storage (CCS) project, is the ability to monitor the CO2 that is injected and verify that it is where it is intended to be. Monitoring and verification continues past the injection stage and will carry on for years after a project has stopped injecting in order to demonstrate storage is permanent

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Effects of CO2 leaks offshore

With most capture facilities being onshore, with the exception being gas processing facilities at sea, the principle offshore leakage potential routes are from subsea pipelines or storage formation leaks

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Effects of CO2 leaks onshore

Whilst everything will be done to ensure leakage does not happen at any stage – capture, transport or storage, it is important to recognise that sometimes accidents can happen. Operators will be required to demonstrate that they are aware of the risks, and have a deep understanding of what the potential risks are, and how to deal with them to minimise and remediate any potential hazards.

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Costs of CCS

It is understood and accepted that CO2 capture and storage (CCS) is one of many options to mitigate the effects of climate change, however it is one of a few that have the potential to offer deep cuts in emissions. There remain some questions and uncertainties over the costs involved, and this information sheet aims to address these costs, and put them into context.

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Public perceptions of CO2

With more and more CO2 capture and storage (CCS) projects reaching the mainstream media and being reported in the news, public perception is an important aspect of a project. With access to information becoming ever simpler via the internet, it is very important for project operators to be open and honest, but above all proactive in their communications to the public.

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Legal and regulatory concern

CO2 capture and storage (CCS) projects will need to be subject to regulation and laws, and although there are some regional regulations that govern and allow pilot and demonstration projects, widespread and all encompassing regulations have so far been missing. There are numerous legal issues that will need to be addressed in order to draft full legislation that will regulate the CCS industry, specifically the storage side.

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CCS Terms and concepts

This Information Sheet describes the main technical terms and processes that are used in discussing Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS). It is not a complete explanation of every component, but covers most of those that are needed to give you a good introduction to the processes involved in CCS.

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