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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Southampton scientists to lead a project investigating the risks associated with storing carbon dioxide under the seabed

Image courtesy of University of Sou
Image courtesy of University of Southampton

Southampton researchers are playing a key role investigating the risks of leaks from carbon dioxide (CO2) storage reservoirs situated under the seabed.

Academics from the University of Southampton will work with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) on understanding the risks involved in the storage of CO2 in depleted oil and gas reservoirs and saline aquifers in the North Sea.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is recognised as an important way of reducing the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere, and oil and gas reservoirs and saline aquifers are the preferred storage location of most European nations. However, a key element in the safety of such storage is to fully understand the risks of any leakage.

The NERC-funded Characterisation of Major Overburden Leakage Pathways above Sub-sea floor CO2 Storage Reservoirs in the North Sea (CHIMNEY) project will explore chimney-like structures in the North Sea sediments that are considered to be possible pathways for the transfer of fluids and gases up to the sea floor.

University of Southampton lead scientist Professor Jonathan Bull, a professor in Geology and Geophysics, said: "The location and potential size of any possible CO2 leakage at the sea floor is critically dependent on the distribution and permeability of fluid pathways in the marine sediments overlying any proposed storage reservoir”.

"If CO2 leaking from storage reservoirs reaches the base of these structures, and if their permeability is sufficiently high, they could act as CO2 leakage pathways towards the sea floor and overlying water column.”

The four-year CHIMNEY project aims to develop better techniques to locate these sub-seafloor structures and determine the permeability of the pathways so that they can be better constrained and quantified.

Researchers will undertake a major fieldwork programme in 2017 to a chimney structure in the North Sea, where they will carry out a unique geophysical experiment to determine the internal structure of the chimney. Drilled samples of the chimney will be collected and analysed by marine experts from the consortium, including the Rock Physics Laboratory at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS).

The results of this analysis will help determine the novel seismic properties of the chimney structures and assess their permeability.

The project will also work closely with GEOMAR, in Germany; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California; CGG, in the UK; and Applied Acoustics, in the UK.

 

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