A NEW Scottish research centre, devoted to the development of carbon capture technology, could hold the key to unlocking the recovery of three billion barrels of North Sea oil worth £190 billion, experts have claimed.
The establishment of the research facility in Edinburgh was one of a series of major boosts for Scotland’s burgeoning renewable energy industry announced by First Minister Alex Salmond on the opening day of the All Energy 2012 Exhibition and Conference in Aberdeen.
He also revealed plans for an £18 million marine energy fund to help develop Scotland’s wave and tidal power schemes from prototype devices to commercially viable systems and the first award from the £70m National Renewables Infrastructure Fund (NRIF) to transform a strategic dock near Glasgow into a key manufacturing location for renewable energy.
The new Centre for CO2- Enhanced Oil Recovery in Scotland is to be based at Edinburgh University and will be aimed at accelerating the development of carbon capture and storage in recovering “hard to reach” potential oil fields in the North Sea.
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh University said the technology could be used to store 75 million tonnes of CO2 from power plants, and increase the amount of oil recovered from subsea reservoirs by between 5 and 25 per cent.
Carbon dioxide would be injected into oil fields deep beneath the sea bed, forcing out additional hydrocarbons. The centre is to be developed in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey.
The spokeswoman said: “The launch of the new centre could boost jobs and growth in Scotland, accelerate development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and unlock three billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil from the North Sea – worth £190 billion.
“To date, there has been no supply of CO2 to support implementation of industrial-scale CO2-enhanced oil recovery in the North Sea, but UK carbon capture plans can change this.”
Mr Salmond said: “The central North Sea is the key European location for the storing of CO2, captured from fossil fuel power stations and industrial emissions and Scotland will be responsible for licensing potentially up to 50 per cent of all of Europe’s offshore geological storage.
“Clearly we are uniquely-placed to take advantage of this potentially game-changing technology, much of which is being pioneered in Scotland through the widely respected work of the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage group.
“The combination of this work with new research into developing CO2-EOR for the North Sea offers mutual benefits for CCS and oil recovery, including the prospect of considerable economies of scale to help drive forward CCS developments.”
In his keynote address, Mr Salmond said that the new £18m Marine Renewables Commercialisation Fund (MRCF) would help marine energy companies developing wave and tidal power arrays to take the next step towards commercial maturity.
He also announced the first grant of £500,000 from the £70m NRIF fund, to support WB Westway’s £1.3m development of a dockland site in Renfrewshire, to create a key location for Scotland’s burgeoning renewable energy sector.