In the UK, debts surrounding renewable energy and the increasing importance of cutting our carbon emissions have mostly centered around the planning and development of wind farms and other sources – which take a significant amount of time to establish and implement. However, in the meantime there is the no less important matter of how best we manage the existing carbon we are producing.
This is actually the debate that is centred on the UK after new research shows that rock sediments under the North Sea could have been used to store vast amounts of carbon dioxide. The theory that has been put forward by the British Geological Survey, as well as researchers at the British Science Association and leading universities, is that trials taking place in the Sleipner oilfield in the Northern North Sea are showing that the waters around the UK could feasibly store 150bn tonnes of carbon dioxide – and that the UK should not drag its feet in making the most of this opportunity.
There are many ways carbon storage can be implemented to be seen to benefit global problems. That which is proposed around the UK is known as geo-sequestration, when carbon dioxide is pumped deep underground into porous rock sediment and depleted gas and oil fields.
The practice has long been worked in the US, with 30 to 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being pumped into declaring oilfields every year – and the additional return of oil from the beds is then sold. Discussions of leakage concern whether carbon storage could have negative environmental impact, but the risks are said to be minimal – with 'well-selected' stores such as those around the UK proposed to safely retain 99 percent of carbon dioxide over 1,000 years.
Yet, besides the benefits of cutting our carbon emissions, using our seas for carbon storage is also said to be of great financial worth to the UK economy – by creating as many jobs as current North Sea oil and bringing in 5 billion pounds a year . But there are competitors, and researchers are warning that without the UK government action fast (with five CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) built by 2016), the rest of Europe will go elsewhere to satisfy their storage needs.