Tackling emissions could bring work bonanza for consultancy

A YORKSHIRE oil and gas consultancy is gearing up for a surge in carbon capture and storage (CCS) work as pressure grows on firms to tackle carbon emissions.

Engineers from Hull-based OSL believe CCS projects are likely to start in Yorkshire within the next two years.

Its team is researching latest techniques in CCS, used in Norway and Germany, and believes the Humber region has the potential to become a hub of excellence for this technology. CCS involves the capture, transportation and safe storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

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"The Humber region has the potential to become an area of technical excellence in this field," said process engineer Graeme Trotter, who is leading the project for OSL.

"Here, we have a range of power stations, steel works and refineries that are constantly adding to the carbon levels – while offshore we have a number of gas reservoirs that are running out of gas and therefore coming to the end of their useful life.

"If we can deliver the expertise to achieve this solution, it will lead to the creation of many hundreds, possibly thousands, of new jobs in our region."

The North Sea and East Yorkshire coast are home to vast gas caverns below the seabed which OSL believes could be used for storage of CO2. Huge underground cavities created by leaching away salt deposits could also be used.

Regional development agency Yorkshire Forward wants to develop a 2bn carbon cluster project, creating a network of major industrial CO2 emitters in East Yorkshire which would use CCS technology to capture harmful emissions.

These would be compressed and transported east and offshore via a pipeline or ship and stored under the North Sea.

Power station operator Drax has embarked on feasibility studies into the use of CCS. The plant near Selby, the UK's single-biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions, is part of a carbon cluster that includes Eggborough, Ferrybridge, Killingholme, Immingham and Keadby power stations and Scunthorpe steel works.

Powerfuel, run by mining executive Richard Budge, plans to build a 900 megawatt power station at Hatfield colliery in South Yorkshire, using CCS technology.

The pipeline would stretch from Ferrybridge, at the junction of the M62 and the A1, to Theddlethorpe, on the south bank of the Humber, where it would be taken offshore.

CO2 Sense Yorkshire, a business development company owned by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, believes the technology for the project is proven.

OSL co-founder Alastair Robertson said the consultancy's expertise in extraction of natural gas and compression gives it a head start. It aims to win work on CCS projects which may be approved in coming months.

"We know the assets that this is likely to go into," he said. "We have worked putting gas the other way. Our expertise is pumping gas down the pipeline.

"We're making sure that when this happens in the Yorkshire area we are there and able to assist with its delivery. This has been on our radar for some time.

"It's going to be next year or so when this starts to kick off. It will be significant investment into the area if it is successful."

OSL, formed in 2005 by Mr Robertson and gas compression expert Nick Jones, now has 35 staff and offices in Aberdeen and Lagos, Nigeria. It has already worked with a number of companies looking to use depleted gas fields for storage.

Mr Robertson said storing CO2 poses significant hurdles including compression, corrosion and safety.

"It's more challenging because if you get water into it, it forms an acid and rots stuff," he said. "There's also a lot of geology to make sure that the hole you put it into is actually sealed."

The single-source emitters in the Humber cluster spew out 60 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to half the emissions from UK households.

According to CO2 Sense Yorkshire, the 2bn network would be able to transport 60m tonnes per year to storage locations by 2030. The transport costs would be 1-2 per tonne of CO2, it added.