07 Oct 2010 00:00:00.000
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Professor Mike Stephenson, Head of Science (Energy) at the British Geological Survey and the new centre’s Director, said: “We have to a strike an extremely fine balance. For a long time the focus has been on mitigating global warming — in other words, fighting it — but an important truth is that we need to invest more in adapting to it.
“Some amount of climate change is inevitable, and to deal with that responsibly we have to act on all levels – internationally, nationally, regionally and even locally. This centre puts Britain right at the vanguard. Now we have to stay there, otherwise we’ll be left behind and suffer the scientific and economic consequences.”
Power plants that burn fossil fuels represent the main source of CO2 emissions, the worldwide total for which was estimated at 29.7bn metric tonnes in 2007. With the figure predicted to reach 34.3bn metric tonnes by 2015, many experts believe carbon capture and storage will prove crucial in slowing the rise.
The process involves separating CO2 from other gases in an exhaust stream, transporting it to a suitable site and storing it safely — potentially for millions of years. The National Centre aims to bridge the historical gap between geology and engineering by focusing on all the technologies involved in the procedure.
Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Innovation in Carbon Capture and Storage (CICCS) and the new National Centre’s Chief Scientific Officer, said: “The issue is all about saving a stable and secure society.
“First and foremost, we have to acknowledge that climate change’s true scope extends beyond the widely accepted scenario of shifts in temperature and rainfall levels. We can’t wait another five or 10 years. We have to act now, and we have to ask ourselves a harsh question: ‘What are we prepared to pay to save the Earth?’
“Equally, we have to acknowledge that dealing with the problem presents some extraordinary opportunities — not just for the UK as a whole but for its regions. On that level we need to grasp the issue in purely economic terms. The financial implications are potentially enormous. This is a big opportunity for Britain.”
The centre, based in Nottingham, will be at the heart of research and training in an increasingly vital worldwide industry.
Both the BGS and the University of Nottingham are already at the cutting edge of work towards addressing the challenges posed by climate change.
Professor Stephenson said: “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) could have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel power stations and other industrial sources by up to 90 per cent. While the individual processes involved aren’t novel, the full chain of technologies has yet to be demonstrated on a commercial stage.
“In that regard this centre will certainly lead the world — and we hope that in leading the world we can perhaps play a significant role in helping to save it.”
By 2030 CCS is expected to abate between one-and-a-half and four gigatonnes of CO2 annually and be worth around £20bn a year in economic and business terms.
Professor John Ludden, Executive Director of the BGS, said: “The University of Nottingham has a diverse spectrum of expertise in carbon capture engineering that will complement the BGSs world-class understanding of geological storage. The National Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage is uniquely poised to make a major research contribution to underpin deployment of CCS.”
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Notes to editors:
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the technology used to slow rising CO2 atmospheric levels in a bid to mitigate global warming. The process has three stages: capture, transport and storage.
Capture involves separating CO2 from other gases in an exhaust stream. At power plants separation technologies can be used either to capture CO2 after combustion or to decarbonise fuel before combustion. It is also possible to burn fuel in pure oxygen rather than in air, resulting in more complete combustion and an almost pure CO2 emission that can be easily separated.
Transport involves moving the captured CO2 to a suitable site, located at a distance from the source, for final storage. One viable option is to use pipelines, with CO2 compressed to a state in which it behaves as both a liquid and a gas.
Storage involves various options, the most promising and refined of which at present is injection into underground geological formations. There are three main proposed underground storage sites: depleted oil and gas reservoirs, deep saline aquifers and deep coal seams that cannot be mined. In 2009 it was suggested the UK could become “Europe’s carbon storage capital” by selling storage space beneath the North Sea to bury billions of tonnes of waste gases from power stations across the continent. New techniques are also being researched, among them artificial photosynthesis — light harvesting for the photochemical conversion of CO2 into fuels or chemicals — and the carbonation of minerals to sequester CO2 into solid, stable forms.
By bringing together geological and engineering expertise, the National Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage will be ideally placed to influence a range of stakeholders, including governments, academia and NGOs. Emerging CO2-intensive economies such as China and India, which for the foreseeable future are committed to vast increases in coal-fired electricity, could particularly benefit.
Oil companies, power firms and cement, steel and aluminium works are also likely to profit from the centre’s research, technical expertise and even regulatory advice.
The British Geological Survey is the UK’s preeminent centre for earth science information and expertise. Founded in 1835, it is the oldest national geological survey in the world.
As a public sector organisation, BGS is responsible for advising the UK government on all aspects of geoscience, including the legislative framework for CO2 storage. It also provides impartial advice to industry, academia and the public.
BGS is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, the UK’s main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It also undertakes an extensive programme of overseas research, surveying and monitoring. Its CO2 storage team has been working in the field of CCS since the mid-1990s.
The University of Nottingham, described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings.
The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 39,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.
The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.
More news from the University at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/news
Facts and figures at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/about/facts/factsandfigures.aspx