23/Jul/2014 - Last News Update: 03:50

Seabed test mimics carbon dioxide release

Category: Scotland

Published: 16th May 2012 01:09:28

Scientists are beginning a month-long experiment in Scottish waters to study the impact of a possible leak from an undersea carbon dioxide storage site.

Working in Ardmucknish Bay near Oban, researchers will allow CO2 to bubble through sediments from a buried pipe and look for impacts on marine life.

Capturing CO2 from power stations and burying it under the seabed is viewed as an important global warming fix.

A number of countries have plants in operation, though the UK does not.

This is believed to be the first time that an impact of CO2 escape on seabed ecosystems has been investigated.

"We want to study what happens if there is a leak from a carbon capture and storage (CCS) reservoir - or more likely, from a fault in a pipe or at the injection site," said Henrik Stahl from the Scottish Marine Institute in Oban, who is in charge of the project.

"We'll study how this affects the ecosystem, the animals and microbes living in the sediments, and how the CO2 transforms in its passage through the upper layers of the sediment," he told BBC News.

Injection was due to begin on Monday, but late delivery of a part meant a postponement. It is now due to begin on Wednesday.

The scientists will release 80-800kg of CO2 per day from a pipe buried about 10m down in sediment.

They anticipate it will change the acidity of seawater in the immediate area from its current value of about pH 8.2 down as low as pH 6.5.

Studies in places where CO2 bubbles into the ocean naturally from vents on the sides of underwater volcanoes show that over long periods, this can substantially change the ecosystem.

Snails and coral cannot make shells; seagrasses take over.

But these sites are not reliable indicators of what would happen during a release from a CCS site. They tend to be in warmer waters, and the release is constant for many centuries, possibly longer.

Ideally the UK team would like to do tests nearer potential North Sea CCS sites. But these lie in far deeper water much further from the coast, rendering it prohibitively expensive.

The research team, which involves staff from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the National Oceanography Centre and other UK institutions, will monitor polychaete worms, sea urchins and molluscs living in the bay's sediments.

They will be able to curb the release if they detect any serious impact.

They will also collect data that can be used to refine computer models of how CO2 spreads and disperses in sediment and water, and evaluate various bits of monitoring kit.

"It's not only about perturbing the system, but also studying how we can study it - how we detect and study a leak using state-of-the-art sensors," said Dr Stahl.

A number of reports conclude that fitting coal- and gas-fired power stations with CCS ought to be as important as renewables in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But economic and political issues have impeded the take-up of the technology.

The UK has the best resources of any European country in terms of offshore storage capacity, but development of the industry has been curtailed by lack of consistent government support.

SSE and Shell are among companies bidding for £1bn of UK government funding to build the nation's first CCS plant. Their bid would see CO2 extracted from flue gas produced by SSE's Peterhead gas-fired power station and pumped under the seabed via Shell's Goldeneye offshore platform.

Follow Richard on Twitter

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Seabed test mimics carbon dioxide release [Online] (Updated 16th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1428824/Seabed-test-mimics-carbon-dioxide-release [Accessed 23rd Jul 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Ravenhill Road to remain closed as more holes found

    More "voids" have been found beneath an east Belfast road that was closed after a large hole was discovered under one of its traffic lanes.
  • Glasgow 2014: Curtain to rise on 20th Commonwealth Games

    Sir Chris Hoy says Glasgow will deliver "the biggest and best Commonwealth Games we've ever seen", ahead of Wednesday's opening ceremony.
  • The curious world of England's street furniture

    As well as breaking the flat grey monotony of the average pavement, street furniture offers somewhere to sit, somewhere to take shelter and, at times, something to prevent us from getting run over. On occasion, it also has a story to tell.
  • UK 'still exporting arms' to Russia, say MPs

    Britain is exporting millions of pounds worth of arms and other dual-use military equipment to Russia despite concerns Moscow is arming separatist rebels in Ukraine, MPs have warned.
  • Lostprophets' Ian Watkins jail term appeal considered

    Paedophile rock star Ian Watkins is due to learn whether he can appeal against the length of his jail term for child sex offences, including the attempted rape of a baby.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com