Bellona – ‘Safe CO2 storage is possible’

A briefing published by Greenpeace last week questions the storage safety at Utsira. Click to view the Greenpeace statement in the box to the right.
In their briefing, Greenpeace refers to an accident at the Utsira formation resulting in a leakage. Greenpeace indicates that this leakage proves that CO2 storage is not safe.

No CO2
Bellona’s expert Dr. Aage Stangeland however, disagrees:

“First of all, there was no leakage of CO2 in the accident. It was not CO2 but water that leaked,” said Stangeland.

“The operator of the Tordis field, StatoilHydro, had been injecting produced water into the Utsira formation. They injected too much water at too high a pressure. The geological structure broke, and oily water leaked out,” says Stangeland.

Not related

“Second, the Utsira formation is large, and the water from Tordis was not injected at the same area of Utsira as where the CO2 is injected in a completely different operation. The stored CO2 was not affected at all by the Tordis accident.”

“Finally, the Tordis accident is a petroleum production problem. It was not at a problem related to CO2 injection and storage”, he says.

Stangeland thinks that StatoilHydro should be criticized for the way they operated the Tordis field, but that the critique must be limited to how they operate their petroleum activities.

Important lesson

“They neglected to use geologists to characterize the geological formation, and as a result they started to inject water at a location where water injection was not a good idea at all. If they had let their geologists do their studies in advance they would have known that water injection was not possible”.
“But there is an important ‘lesson learned’ from the Tordis accident when it comes to CO2 storage. Geologists and experts must characterize possible CO2 storage sites prior to CO2 injection. This is a prerequisite to be sure that safe CO2 storage sites are selected.”

Why CCS is a must
CO2 capture and storage (CCS) is a way to cut the CO2 emissions that are contributing to global warming. CO2 is captured from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, and transported to safe storage places underground.

The vast majority of energy production today is based on fossil fuels that lead to large CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, we will still need to use coal, oil and gas for some decades to come, but with CCS it is possible to eliminate CO2 emissions.

Employing the conventional instruments required to combat climate change, like renewable energy, energy efficiency and rain forest preservation, can still only cut about half of global CO2 emissions. Yet avoiding the most dramatic consequences of global warming necessitates reducing CO2 emissions by up to 85 percent by 2050. In order to achieve this, we need CCS.