Dr Andy Chadwick, BGS
With global temperatures continuing to rise, the area of Arctic sea-ice reached an all-time end-of-year low on December 31 2017. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are continuing to rise with indications that positive feedbacks from an increased incidence of forest fires and melting permafrost are starting to accelerate the rate of increase, not just of CO2, but also of methane.
To meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which calls for temperatures to be stabilised below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, global CO2 net emissions have to be reduced to zero by around 2050. But, despite the widespread deployment of renewable energy technologies, annual CO2 emissions reached an all-time high of 36.8 Gt in 2017.
Global deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the only way to make deep and profound cuts into the massive ongoing legacy of fossil carbon emissions that we have created. More specifically, net zero global emissions from 2050 will require man-made carbon sinks to offset the carbon sources. This will require underground carbon storage, in tandem with biomass power generation and/or direct air capture of CO2.
Over 60 million tonnes of CO2 have so far been stored underground for more than 20 years at a number of storage sites worldwide, either in saline aquifers or depleted oil and gas fields (some including enhanced oil recovery). Upscaling these projects to storing billions of tonnes of
CO2 requires assurance that storage is technically feasible and secure.
Time-lapse geophysical monitoring at the Sleipner storage site beneath the North Sea has shown that the underground CO2 plume can be imaged at high resolution and storage security can be demonstrated. Monitoring at Sleipner and other sites indicates that we can understand underground storage processes and make predictions about long-term storage performance with a degree of confidence.
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