SECURe advances management of CO2 storage and publishes key risk mitigation recommendations

The safe operation of geoenergy and subsurface storage sites is essential to achieve net zero

The SECURe project has significantly advanced knowledge of how best to manage subsurface geoenergy projects involving CO2 storage and unconventional hydrocarbons, paving the way for deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the UK and beyond.  It has also established an international forum on environmental monitoring, a further important legacy.

Faster roll-out of CCS is increasingly seen as critical if we are to limit global warming to below 2°C, as per the Paris Agreement. The three-year SECURe project, which finished in May, developed several innovative monitoring and remediation techniques which will help raise the storage readiness levels of potential sites. It has also provided guidance on communicating effectively with stakeholders and with communities – essential for building wider public acceptance of CCS.

The increased knowledge developed in SECURe will enable CCS projects to show that CO2 storage is a safe, efficient and viable option for advancing decarbonisation of industrial and energy emitters. Such projects are supported in the UK through last November’s 10-point green industry plan and across Europe through the Innovation Fund and through Projects of Common Interest (PCI)

“Our novel research has furthered understanding of what baseline environmental conditions mean in the context of ensuring CO2 storage operations are conducted in a safe and reliable manner,” said project coordinator Ed Hough of the British Geological Survey which led the project.  

“SECURe has advanced environmental monitoring and remediation that will help the uptake of subsurface CO2 storage. We have also improved our understanding of how geoenergy projects are perceived by non-experts, which is valuable in designing messages to help the acceptance of schemes in host communities.”

Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, SECURe brought together 16 research and commercial organisations from Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the UK. In all, the €8.5m project published 41 research reports. These detail advances in:

  • risk assessment for leakage from CO2 storage and unconventional hydrocarbons extraction (UHE) sites and induced seismicity;
  • environmental baseline and monitoring strategies;
  • advanced monitoring and sensor technologies; and
  • impact mitigation and remediation and development and exchange of best practice associated with CO2 storage and UHE sites.

Examples of specific innovations furthered by SECURe include: environmental baseline strategy synergies that allow deployment of multiple monitoring techniques in unison; integrated multi-tracer fingerprinting of fluid migration; methodology optimisation for methane and higher hydrocarbon concentrations/isotopic ratio measurements in groundwater and soil gas; an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-based CO2 sensor; and a noble gas downhole sensor improved to successfully analyse gas-water ratios and volumes of inert gas.

Project recommendations

SECURe gathered unbiased, impartial scientific evidence. We identified four principal hazards associated with geological CO2 storage, and five associated with unconventional hydrocarbons extraction (UHE). We have summarised key recommendations for regulators and industry operators addressing each issue in a series of factsheets. Participatory monitoring was also a key part of SECURe’s research: its value was captured and embedded within each risk assessment. Because of its broad relevance, we also created an overview participatory monitoring factsheet, with our recommendations in this area. 

“Our recommendations seek to provide a pragmatic and reasonable response to concerns,” said Ed. “They can be used to inform site development and management strategies from the perspective of multiple stakeholders - operators, regulators, legislators and the general public.”

International research partnership

The SECURe team undertook fact-finding missions to the USA and Canada and to Australia  – regions with some of the world’s most advanced subsurface geoenergy research facilities and operations. We gathered valuable information on current understanding and good practice in site performance and environmental monitoring from a practical and operational perspective. Building on the positive connections made, SECURe has established the International Platform for Environmental Monitoring, a long-term collaboration initiative bringing together practitioners, regulators and researchers to facilitate knowledge and data exchange.  

“Part of the legacy of SECURe is enhanced international collaboration between research teams and organisations that share common goals and interests in reaching lower carbon futures, environmental monitoring and risk reduction for new uses of the subsurface,” said Ed.

“February’s IPEM launch event resulted in a clear mandate to maintain this network beyond the life of the SECURe project, with an initial focus on environmental monitoring and effective community engagement for low-carbon geoenergy projects and related activities. We expect IPEM to take the form of a regular biannual event series. A steering/organising committee is now being actively sought to take on the coordination of IPEM beyond SECURe.”

“We are delighted IPEM has been well received and hope it will develop into an enduring legacy of SECURe and the significant progress in advancing low-carbon geoenergy that the project achieved.”

For further information, please contact Ed Hough at [email protected]