Using old North Sea platforms to store carbon emissions underground would be “10 times cheaper” than decommissioning them, according to a new study.
Edinburgh University researchers made the findings by studying the Beatrice oilfield, 15 miles off the north-east coast in the outer Moray Firth.
Using computer modelling, they found that, over a 30-year period, using the field and its infrastructure as a carbon capture and storage (CCS) site would be around 10 times cheaper than decommissioning, which is expected to cost more than £260m.
CCS is the process of storing carbon emissions which are harmful to the environment underground – a developing technology which the North Sea has been identified as having high potential for.
Platforms be used would store emissions generated by natural gas production, helping combat climate change.
Researchers also found that large amounts of natural gas and heat can be extracted from saltwater in exhausted oil and gas fields, which can be used as a fuel on the platforms or used to produce electricity.
This could then bring the costs down of storing the carbon emissions, and postpone expensive decommissioning.
The university said this could help kick start a “world leading” CCS industry in the North Sea.
Jonathan Scafidi of the university’s School of Geosciences, said: “Removing platforms at large expense is short-sighted.
“Re-using them to dispose of CO2 in rocks several kilometres beneath the seabed will not only be cheaper, but provides a cost-effective means of cutting the UK’s CO2 emissions to meet the 2050 net-zero target.”
The study was published in the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control.
Mr Scafidi’s colleague, Stuart Gilfillan, added: “Our study shows, for the first time, that natural gas production from saltwater can be combined with CO2 storage in the North Sea.
“The potential revenue provided by extending natural gas production in the North Sea could help kick-start a world-leading carbon capture and storage industry in the UK.”