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Oil expertise centre to boost growth

The University has a central role in a new centre of North Sea oil expertise.

The Centre for North Sea Enhanced Oil Recovery with CO2 (CENSEOR-CO2) will accelerate development of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Researchers at the Centre will develop understanding of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology, which creates a commercial use for CO2 captured from power plants and industry.

It could also unlock three billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil from the North Sea - worth £190 billion.

Complementary technologies

The Centre was announced by First Minister Alex Salmond at the All-Energy conference in Aberdeen.

The technology could store 75 million tonnes of CO2 from each power plant CCS project, and increase the amount of oil removed from reservoirs beneath the sea by five to 25 percent.

The process involves injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) gas into oilfields deep beneath the sea bed, to force out additional volumes of oil.

To date, there has been no supply of CO2 to support implementation of industrial scale CO2-EOR in the North Sea, but UK carbon capture plans can change this.

Efficient recovery

Our research will provide an independent voice to establish the conditions by which CO2-EOR can be made environmentally, commercially and technically feasible in the North Sea.

Professor Stuart HaszeldineSchool of GeoSciences

EOR technology has been used in North America for decades.

In the UK, it can be used in tandem with carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that will capture the necessary quantities of CO2 emissions from power stations.

The captured CO2 would be transported to the North Sea where it is injected into oilfields, forcing out additional oil, with the CO2 remaining permanently stored deep underground.

The Centre, involving experts from two universities, will have funding from Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government, matched by commercial funding from 2Co Energy Limited.

It will operate within Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey.

Comparable cost

The Edinburgh-based Centre will initially tackle the technical, regulatory, social and economic challenges of accelerating the widespread deployment of CO2-EOR technology across the North Sea.

The Centre is launched as initial findings from a report funded by Scottish Enterprise outline the potential economic benefits of enhanced oil recovery.

Uptake of CCS technology could enable large volumes of CO2 to become available for the first time. In addition, Scotland’s economy could benefit from four UK CCS projects that will be applying for funding from the UK Government, two of which could utilise CO2-EOR.

Experts say that combining carbon capture and oil recovery technologies could cut the price of electricity generated by CCS by £30 per MW hour, comparable with onshore wind power.

"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 SCCS 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.

Alex SalmondScottish First Minister