ACT Acorn: a catalyst for low-cost, low-risk clean growth

International collaboration shows how UK’s assets can accelerate Europe’s transition to sustainable future

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
The groundbreaking Acorn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project has released findings from its international joint research project, which show how the UK can support decarbonisation of some of Europe’s carbon-intensive regions from the early 2020s through the phased roll-out of a low-cost, low-risk North Sea CO2 transport and storage infrastructure.

Research partners from the UK, the Netherlands and Norway will share results from the accelerated 18-month project, funded by the European Commission’s ERA-NET ACT programme, at a stakeholder event in Westminster.

Among other findings, extensive research into several pivotal areas found that:
• The UK’s existing North Sea oil and gas transport infrastructure coupled with an impressive natural CO2 storage resource offers significant benefits and value.
• Careful screening around just three strategically important pipelines reveals at least 16 suitable storage sites, with the most promising two potentially providing a storage resource for over 650 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2, which could be in use from as early as 2023.
• The deep-water port at Peterhead can import CO2 by ship from the UK and Europe. With a maximum throughput of 16Mt of CO2 annually, this facility could enable carbon capture in many other regions around the UK and the North Sea.
• This early start to decarbonising high-emitting regions can then be expanded in a phased and low-cost manner through the use of this national and European CO2 CCS network.
• The reuse of legacy oil and gas infrastructure as part of the Acorn CCS project will save around £648 million compared to the cost of new build. This brings a significant saving to the taxpayer in decommissioning alone.
• Decarbonisation of the UK gas grid – for heat and transport – is possible by producing hydrogen from natural gas with CCS at St Fergus, where 35% of all UK natural gas comes onshore.
• Citizens in high-emitting industrial areas look to governments to enable a just transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to an environmentally sustainable future.
• In all three life cycle assessment scenarios (overall carbon footprint) the Acorn CCS project is predicted to bring major carbon reductions and lower the impact of greenhouse gases on health and ecosystems.
• Knowledge derived from the ACT Acorn project will be invaluable for similar developments in other North Sea regions and further afield where legacy oil and gas operations are in place.

Aage Stangeland, The Research Council of Norway and the Coordinator of the ERA-NET ACT programme, said: “The ACT Acorn project has delivered very interesting results that can hopefully pave the way for full-scale CCS.”

Steve Murphy, project director, of Pale Blue Dot Energy said: “The ERA-NET ACT programme has been a truly transformational step in what we plan will be the realisation of a practical and functioning CCS infrastructure project for Europe, the UK and Scotland. Acorn CCS is now well placed to be an operating project by 2023, firmly realising an option for the UK to deliver CCS at scale in the 2030s and supporting many industrial clusters around the North Sea to significantly decarbonise. The project has been supported by highly capable and understanding research partners with a matched passion for decarbonisation to whom we are grateful."

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