Seabed test mimics carbon dioxide release
Published: 16th May 2012 01:09:28
Scientists are beginning a month-long experiment in Scottish waters to study the impact of a possible leak from an undersea carbon dioxide storage site.
Working in Ardmucknish Bay near Oban, researchers will allow CO2 to bubble through sediments from a buried pipe and look for impacts on marine life.
Capturing CO2 from power stations and burying it under the seabed is viewed as an important global warming fix.
A number of countries have plants in operation, though the UK does not.
This is believed to be the first time that an impact of CO2 escape on seabed ecosystems has been investigated.
"We want to study what happens if there is a leak from a carbon capture and storage (CCS) reservoir - or more likely, from a fault in a pipe or at the injection site," said Henrik Stahl from the Scottish Marine Institute in Oban, who is in charge of the project.
"We'll study how this affects the ecosystem, the animals and microbes living in the sediments, and how the CO2 transforms in its passage through the upper layers of the sediment," he told BBC News.
Injection was due to begin on Monday, but late delivery of a part meant a postponement. It is now due to begin on Wednesday.
The scientists will release 80-800kg of CO2 per day from a pipe buried about 10m down in sediment.
They anticipate it will change the acidity of seawater in the immediate area from its current value of about pH 8.2 down as low as pH 6.5.
Studies in places where CO2 bubbles into the ocean naturally from vents on the sides of underwater volcanoes show that over long periods, this can substantially change the ecosystem.
Snails and coral cannot make shells; seagrasses take over.
But these sites are not reliable indicators of what would happen during a release from a CCS site. They tend to be in warmer waters, and the release is constant for many centuries, possibly longer.
Ideally the UK team would like to do tests nearer potential North Sea CCS sites. But these lie in far deeper water much further from the coast, rendering it prohibitively expensive.
The research team, which involves staff from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the National Oceanography Centre and other UK institutions, will monitor polychaete worms, sea urchins and molluscs living in the bay's sediments.
They will be able to curb the release if they detect any serious impact.
They will also collect data that can be used to refine computer models of how CO2 spreads and disperses in sediment and water, and evaluate various bits of monitoring kit.
"It's not only about perturbing the system, but also studying how we can study it - how we detect and study a leak using state-of-the-art sensors," said Dr Stahl.
A number of reports conclude that fitting coal- and gas-fired power stations with CCS ought to be as important as renewables in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
But economic and political issues have impeded the take-up of the technology.
The UK has the best resources of any European country in terms of offshore storage capacity, but development of the industry has been curtailed by lack of consistent government support.
SSE and Shell are among companies bidding for £1bn of UK government funding to build the nation's first CCS plant. Their bid would see CO2 extracted from flue gas produced by SSE's Peterhead gas-fired power station and pumped under the seabed via Shell's Goldeneye offshore platform.
Follow Richard on Twitter
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Seabed test mimics carbon dioxide release. [Online] (Updated 16 May 2012)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/1428824-Seabed-test-mimics-carbon-dioxide-release [Accessed 10th May 2013]
At 14:17:45 in OtherA man has been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault as part of a police investigation into historical sexual abuse at a Manchester musi...
At 14:15:43 in OtherThe proposed route for the new HS2 train line, bypassing Warrington, will have a negative impact on the town's economy, councillors hav...
At 11:17:34 in OtherThe High Court has upheld a decision by a judge that a man accused of child sex abuse offences whose trial collapsed is mentally unfit to st...
At 11:14:46 in OtherA man has been charged with the attempted rape of a woman in the Radcliffe area in Greater Manchester. ...
At 08:05:39 in OtherOrganisers of the National Eisteddfod should consider holding the event in England to widen its appeal, according to two politicians. ...
At 04:33:45 in OtherCouncillors have deferred a decision over plans for a 200-bed hotel on a university campus in Bristol....
At 03:01:03 in OtherSexual abuse complaints against a Church of England cleric were not referred to police by then Archbishop of York, David Hope, it has emerge...
At 22:09:38 in OtherA Bolton animal farm torched in an arson attack has been "inundated" with offers of help from around the world. ...
At 21:34:03 in OtherA police officer has set off on a 230-mile (370km) charity run in memory of murdered Greater Manchester PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes....
At 21:28:18 in OtherAn arts project designed to attract visitors to the East Lancashire stretch of the Leeds to Liverpool canal has been awarded £2m by the Arts...
News In Other Categories
The introduction of energy smart meters in 30 million UK homes will be delayed for more than a year, the government has announced....
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told US media he has evidence that Syria employed chemical weapons against opposition forces...
Criminals are using the cover of the government's flagship energy policy to defraud money from homeowners....
The next elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are to be put back a year, until 2016. ...
A doctor who was working at Aberystwyth's Bronglais hospital could be struck off after sending flirtatious texts messages to a female p...
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol ba...