The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has launched a new project, which will study the impact of removing brine from undersea stores that could, in future, be used to store captured carbon dioxide.
The £200,000 nine-month long “Impact of Brine Production on Aquifer Storage” project will be carried out by Heriot-Watt University, a founder member of the Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS) research partnership, and Element Energy. T2 Petroleum Technology and Durham University will also participate in the project.
Although the Government recently announced it was not continuing with its £1bn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) its view is that CCS can still play a potential role in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK energy system.
This latest ETI project will build on earlier CCS research work and help develop understanding of the potential CO2 stores, such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs or saline aquifers, located beneath UK waters. It will also help to build confidence among future operators and investors for their operation.
An earlier ETI CCS project led to the development of the UK’s principal storage screening database, CO2Stored, which estimates the capacity and injectivity for each of an identified 550 stores off the UK’s coast. As part of the analysis one of the assumptions was that brine was not produced from the reservoir store before, during or after CO2 injection.
However, if pressure builds within a store as a result of CO2 injection then brine can potentially be removed from the store through a purpose-built well or wells to depressurise it whilst still retaining the store’s operation and integrity.
Brine management is a recognised way within the oil and gas industry of controlling reservoir pressure and fluid flow. Brine production is a feature of every oil and gas development. The removed brine could be sent to another aquifer or displaced to the sea.
Recent work published by Heriot-Watt University has showed that producing brine on the UK Continental Shelf may be beneficial to CO2 injection rates and storage. Using this experience of brine production means researchers from the university are well placed to deliver on the objectives of this project.
Paul Winstanley, ETI CCS Project Manager said “Although the UK Government is no longer pursuing its CCS demonstration competition, ETI’s view remains that CCS offers long term the lowest cost solution to meeting the UK’s legally binding 2050 climate change targets.
“One of our roles at the ETI is to help build knowledge and understanding around the challenges and benefits of CCS to ensure there is a robust evidence base in place allowing decisions to be made.
“Without early demonstration of CCS the country is placing much greater reliance on its ability to rapidly deploy the other tools it has such as renewables, new nuclear, bioenergy, low carbon heating and efficiency measures, which could double the cost of meeting UK energy and climate change targets with substantial increases in system costs appearing from 2020 onwards. The work of this project should continue to demonstrate the role CCS should play in a long-term transition to a low carbon energy system.”
The project will produce a cost-benefit analysis of brine production, using the CO2Stored database and numerical models developed in the ETI’s previous UK Storage Appraisal Project as a starting point. The analysis undertaken will cover both saline aquifers and oil and gas reservoirs.
The first stage of the project will examine any changes in injectivity and storage capacity as a result of producing brine, the additional cost of using brine wells as part of storage site operations and the potential for any savings. If the first stage shows there are potential benefits, these will then be refined and the operational implications examined further.
Professor Eric Mackay from Heriot-Watt University added “More brine than oil has been produced from North Sea oil reservoirs. This brine is cleaned to conform to environmental regulations and then either displaced to sea or reinjected into subsurface rock formations. Seawater is also injected into oil reservoirs to maintain the pressure while the oil is being produced and also maximise oil recovery. This project will investigate the potential to do the reverse – produce brine to prevent the pressure increasing during CO2 injection. This will reduce the risk of leakage, increase the amount of CO2 that individual wells can inject and increase the storage capacity of the whole system – potentially by a factor of three to four times.
“As a result, fewer wells overall will be required, and fewer sites may be required to store the same amount of CO2 – with clear benefits in terms of reduced cost of appraisal, drilling, operation and monitoring. Provided existing regulations on water quality are adhered to, the environmental footprint of CO2 injection will also be reduced.
Emrah Durusut, Element Energy’s CCS expert, added “Our recent analysis for the ETI shows that early investment in CO2 storage development is needed to unlock future unit cost reductions and strategic build-out options for CCS given long lead times for developing storage sites. Brine production has the potential to reduce the level of investment required.”
The project partners consider that, just as brine injection made the oil industry much more effective at maximising recovery, brine production will considerably improve the efficiency and security of storage for the CCS industry, and significantly reduce the cost. The project will be the most detailed investigation of the potential benefits of brine production for CCS in the UK conducted to date.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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