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The University of Southampton
Clean Carbon

Southampton scientists and partners win €16 million H2020 funding for unique CCS safety experiment

Published: 18 March 2016
STEMM-CCS will be able to ensure that captured carbon dioxide remains permanently stored




Autosubs will carry sensors to monitor changes in the ocean
Autosubs will carry sensors to monitor changes in the ocean

The project is called: STrategies for the Environmental Monitoring of Marine Carbon Capture and Storage (STEMM-CCS) and brings together the National Oceanography Center Southampton, the Universities of Southampton and Heriot Watt; Shell; Plymouth Marine Laboratory; GEOMAR and MPI from Germany; NIVA, Uni Research and the Universities of Bergen and Tromso from Norway; the Technical University of Graz from Austria and Seascape Consultants Ltd. 

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) sites are specially selected and it is vital that, once stored, CO2 does not escape again into the atmosphere; or, if it does, that such escapes can be detected, monitored and controlled. STEMM-CCS aims to improve risk assessment and monitoring of offshore Carbon Capture and Storage sites. It will be the world’s first ‘real-world’ deep-water controlled experiment and will simulate emission from a submerged carbon dioxide storage reservoir.

The experiment will take place in The North Sea, 100 km North East of Aberdeen. This site is near a depleted gas field and is a typical location that could be used for carbon dioxide storage. To simulate leakage, small quantities of CO₂ will be injected into mud on the sea floor. Detecting a leakage involves the partners developing acoustic and chemical sensors. These devices will be fitted into robotic auto subs which will be deployed underwater to ‘listen’ for CO2 leaks. Automated photographic analysis software will also be developed to enable the detection of any visual changes at the release site. Other sensors in the water and on the seabed will monitor changes in the chemistry, temperature, salinity and currents of the water, which would indicate possible leakage of carbon dioxide.



In order to enable scientists to better differentiate natural changes from those resulting from the controlled release, the technologies developed will be launched in Scotland a year before the controlled release in order to acquire an in-depth picture of the natural variability of the environment on a daily, weekly and seasonal timescale. 

The project will start in 2018 and will be led by the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton. The work will enable scientists to develop a reliable system for detecting and quantifying the volume of any CO₂ released and will help provide greater reassurance around the safety of CCS operations in the future.

Listen to more about the project on BBC Radio 4's 'Inside Science' programme

Follow on Twitter @STEMM_CCS_EU


Currently, it is challenging to detect and quantify CO₂ emissions in the marine environment because of dispersion and attenuation effects, the small volumes involved and considering large existing natural variability. This project is a really exciting opportunity to develop innovative, safe and cost effective technology to address these problems

Dr Doug Connelly - Marine chemistry researcher at the National Oceanographic Centre, Southampton

Notes for editors

The funding is from the European Union’s Horizon2020 project under the grant agreement number 654462


The Project Coordinator is Dr Carla Sands

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