I recently met Dr. Luke Warren, Chief Executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, who sought to make the case for CCS. Our UKIP position is clear: we think that CCS by itself is simply a pointless waste of money that drives up energy costs unnecessarily (although as long as carbon paranoia persists, we would rather see coal-fired generation with CCS than no coal-fired generation at all). However Dr. Warren makes the case for CCS with the CO2 actually used for “Enhanced Oil Recovery” (EOR) in North Sea oilfields. I feel he deserves a hearing, so I invited him to write a short article which I attach below.
My reaction to his argument is simple: it depends on the numbers. If the economic benefits of EOR actually pay for the cost of CCS, then I have no problem with it. My thanks to Dr. Warren for providing the article.
The untapped value of enhanced oil recovery to the North Sea
The North Sea oil and gas industry was once considered the energy power engine of the UK, but since 2006 we have become a net importer of oil. Not only does this mean compromised energy security, but job losses. Clearly, we need to do everything we can to ensure that an industry of which the UK is so proud, can once again flourish.
Part of the solution is deploying technologies which help us make the most of our reserves. That’s where carbon capture and storage (CCS) comes in: CCS captures carbon dioxide from industrial and power processes, and transports it in pipes before it is stored permanently under the ground. But rather than just lock the carbon dioxide underground, it can also be put to useful work via enhanced oil recovery (EOR): where carbon dioxide is injected into oilfields to force out extra oil.
To date, there hasn’t been enough carbon dioxide supply to get this going, but CCS changes this. The UK’s CCS Commercialisation Programme aims to deliver up to two world leading CCS projects. These projects promise to capture around 75 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, with the potential to increase the amount of oil recovered from UK reservoirs by 5-25%. Government urgently needs to follow the lead of others around the world who have used CCS to get the most out of their indigenous oil reserves – US business, for example, has been using EOR to provide a competitive edge for decades.
Building the CCS infrastructure doesn’t have to be expensive either: EOR could provide the UK with an additional income of £13billion (once and if oil prices pick up), which would cover the CCS build programme: giving us ‘CCS for free’. And as a further bonus, by reducing carbon emissions CCS could help us retain some of our existing domestic industries, such as coal and gas power generation, as well as support vital energy-intensive industries (such as chemicals, steel and cement manufacture sectors) which employ 800,000 people directly and in supply chains.
It’s our responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to secure the future of North Sea industry. With unparalleled skills in the oil and gas sector, as well as a unique geography and geology, EOR via CCS may be part of the solution: it would be wholly irresponsible to ignore it.