Development of common CCS infrastructure in the UK

The Global Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Institute highlighted in its status report, The Global Status of CCS: 2010 (published in 2011) that there are already a number of common infrastructure studies of global significance. The report identified 14 storage-only projects and 17 that were associated with enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

Four of the storage-only common infrastructure projects are in the United Kingdom (UK), which is more than any other nation. The four identified are Thames, Humber, Scotland and Teesside, which account for the storage of over 25 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. All are at various levels of development, from conceptual design to more advanced stages of design. However, they each show high potential for common CCS infrastructure in the UK, and significant future cost savings.

The studies conducted have also led to the resolution of key considerations for future developments:

  • Who – carbon emitters types, size, industry sector, geography;
  • Cluster definitions – geography, emission density, policy driven;
  • Scenario developments;
  • Timelines;
  • Storage and capture issues;
  • Flexibility;
  • Comparison methods for optimisation;
  • Consideration of anchor projects;
  • Right sizing for future development;
  • Compression/pumping;
  • Environmental and social considerations; Influence of shipping; and,
  • Definition of common infrastructure.

The most important consideration for the development of clusters is the selection of storage sites and the inclusion of emitters. Location of potential storage sites and emitters dictates the practical shape of pipeline systems.

The areas that may be considered as clusters vary; no clear technical definition is yet proposed. How definition of a cluster occurs can be looked at in a number of ways:

  • Committed “˜anchor’ projects – numerous projects with CCS ambitions;
  • Density of emissions;
  • Regional policy;
  • Proximity of emitters; and,
  • High potential of accessible storage volumes.

Group or single projects that can act as a solid base for scenario definitions can also enable infrastructure clusters. These anchor projects are generally first movers with capture, storage or EOR ambitions.

For example, the Longannet and Don Valley CCS projects act as focal points for CCS infrastructure design, as does the storage potential of the southern part of the North Sea. The critical elements continue to be: where do you store emissions, and which emitters will deploy emissions capture in the future?

Location and development

The location and development of storage sites is potentially the first area that must be looked at when considering common infrastructure studies. The storage sites’ availability provides two key factors: how much carbon can be stored and where. Other factors included the type of storage site, the timeline by which it may be made available, and the potential re-use of existing infrastructure.

The location and development of storage technology over time sets the shape of the infrastructure, whereas the volumes over time define part of the system’s capacity and pressure profiles. The type of storage also causes issues regarding pressure and flow; a low-pressure reservoir on a common network will require de-pressuring, whilst some stores may need additional pressure. An optimum design approach needs to be considered for future plans, balanced against the risk of early investment in large systems.

Carbon emitters, in terms of size, type, deployment timeline and location, are the other major driver for influencing infrastructure plans. The optimum network considers all the emitters in a cluster, but has to impose screening to ensure that the scenario is realistic in terms of application of technology, ability to capture carbon, storage availability, and timescale.

The following are some of the key high-level screening points developed from successive infrastructure studies:

  • Definition of common infrastructure boundaries;
  • Complete emitter profile;
  • Emitter data;
  • Future emitters;
  • Emitter type;
  • Size classification;
  • Plot availability;
  • Site access;
  • Storage access; and,
  • Age.

The development of clusters is highly dependent on timing, both for emitters and storage. For storage, the timing of availability drives offshore development as well as expectations of use. Some depleted gas fields may not be suitable for CCS, or may be more suitable as commercial gas storage sites.

Offshore infrastructure age is also a consideration, as is the lag time from depleted hydrocarbon field closure to the uptake of CCS. Idle facilities incur ongoing costs when not in production. Determination of storage availability therefore shapes offshore common infrastructure in terms of location and pipeline operating parameters.

Considering the cost of CCS

Costs to emitters are typically ignored during current studies but they do influence deployment scenarios. The ability of an emitter to enable CCS is dependent on the cost of both the emissions and technology.

For medium to small emitters – or even non-power generation large emitters – capture technology and high-pressure compression may, at current costs, prove economically unviable. This consideration is driven by policy, as it drives deployment rates, particularly the demonstrator projects which are heavily public-funded. Experience at scale, or with lower cost new technologies, will decrease and deployment will accelerate.

The development of CCS infrastructure in the UK is difficult to predict. By 2015, the first demonstration project will be online, closely followed by potentially three or four more with the aid of further European and UK funding. Post-2020, when the technology may be considered mature, the roll-out may become driven by investment based on sequestering the CO2 instead of emitting it, thus avoiding the costs associated with the emissions trading scheme or floor price cost of carbon.

Large roll-out of CCS projects – as predicted in the International Energy Agency’s 2009 paper, Technology Roadmap: Carbon capture and storage – will require commercial incentives to develop CCS. This will require clear regulation, a higher price on carbon, and a technology that is less expensive and more developed than it is now.

Consistently, studies in the UK show significant savings of 50-70 per cent from common infrastructure opposed to single pipeline-emitter schemes.

Economic analysis in the most recent study for the Humber region of the UK showed that investment in right sizing pipelines to future capacity was beneficial. Early investment would therefore deliver low-cost transport solutions to the point
that comparative learning rates indicate capture technology will start to deliver at lower costs.

Other factors such as political, social and energy issues will drive CCS to deployment as well. Socially, the climate change agenda is driving global opinion and in turn, driving policy. It is important to note that energy security issues will drive the UK and other European countries to consider the need to deploy gas – and coal-fired generation, should nuclear and renewable energy deployment not meet the required capacity targets. If carbon reduction targets are to be met, then CCS will have to be deployed.


Common infrastructure development is clearly beneficial and economic. The studies for the UK, the European Union and other regions clearly indicate broad themes and generate common influences. There is also a case for common infrastructure planning for even single emitter projects. This should include the current demonstration projects, allowing investment now to support larger infrastructure in the future.

The success of common infrastructure not only requires commitment in terms of projects and finance, but also a strong technical basis in industry and academia, supportive policy and ultimately an informed and supportive populace.

This is an abridged version of James Watt’s “˜Development of common CCS infrastructure in the UK’ paper, which was presented at the Second International Forum on the Transportation of CO2 by Pipeline, held in Newcastle, United Kingdom in 2011.
The Third International Forum on Transportation of CO2 by Pipeline will be held in Newcastle again from 20-21 June 2012. For more information visit

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