Qualifying and Monitoring Potential Ecosystem Impacts of Geological Carbon Storage (QICS)

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science


Proposal to Research Councils Energy Program: Carbon Capture and Storage / Potential ecosystem impacts of geological carbon storage call. Quantifying and Monitoring Potential Ecosystem Impacts of Geological Carbon Storage (QICS). Climate change caused by increasing emissions of CO2, principally the burning of fossil fuels for power generation, is one of the most pressing concerns for society. Currently around 90% of the UK's energy needs are met by fossil fuels which will probably continue to be the predominant source of energy for decades to come. Developing our understanding of the pros and cons of a range of strategies designed to reduce CO2 emissions is vital. Of the available strategies such as wind, wave and solar renewables and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) none are without potential problems or limitations. The concept of CCS simply put is to capture CO2 during the process of power generation and to store it permanently in deep geological structures beneath the land or sea surface. If CCS is successful existing fossil fuel reserves could be used whilst new forms of power generation with low CO2 emissions are developed. A few projects have been successfully demonstrating either capture or storage on limited scales, so it is established that the technical challenges are surmountable. Research is also demonstrating that the geological structures are in general robust for long term storage (for example oil deposits remain in place within geological strata). However geological structures are complex and natural sub surface gas deposits are known to outgas at the surface. Consequently it would be irresponsible to develop full scale CCS programmes without an understanding of the likelihood of leakage and the severity of impacts which might occur. The aim of this proposal is to greatly improve the understanding of the scale of impact a leakage from CCS systems might inflict on the ecosystem and to enable a comprehensive risk assessment of CCS. The main location of stored CO2 in the UK will be in geo-formations under the North Sea and our research concentrates on impacts to the marine environment, although our work will also be relevant to all geological formations. Research to date has shown that hypothetical large leaks would significantly alter sediment and water chemistry and consequently some marine creatures would be vulnerable. What is not yet understood is how resilient species are, and how big an impact would stem from a given leak. Our project will investigate for the first time the response of a real marine community (both within and above the sediments) to a small scale tightly controlled artificial leak. We will look at chemical and biological effects and importantly investigate the recovery time needed. We will be able to relate the footprint of the impact to the known input rate of CO2. The results will allow us to develop and test models of flow and impact that can be applied to other scenarios and we will assess a number of monitoring methods. The project will also investigate the nature of flow through geological formations to give us an understanding of the spread of a rising CO2 plume should it breach the reservoir. The work proposed here would amount to a significant advance in the understanding and scientific tools necessary to form CCS risk assessments and quantitative knowledge of the ecological impacts of leaks. We will develop model tools that can predict the transfer, fate and impact of leaks from reservoir to ecosystem, which may be applied when specific CCS operations are planned. An important product of our work will be a recommendation of the best monitoring strategy to ensure the early detection of leaks. We will work alongside interested parties from industry, government and public to ensure that the information we produce is accessible and effective.


10 25 50
Description An oceanic two-phase plume model was developed to predict CO2 bubble plume and CO2 solution dynamics observed from the QICS field experiment in the Scottish sea at Ardmucknish Bay. The simulation predicts that the leaked bubbles form at between 2 and 12mm in diameter; the bubble size affects the maximum pCO2 dissolved in the water column; while the bubble interactions affect the vertical bubble distribution. The maximum pCO2 increases from a back-ground 360 µatm to 400, 427 and 443 µatm as CO2 injection rates increase from 80, 170 to 208kg/day respectively at low tide. An increase of the leakage rate to 100% of the injection rate shows the maximum pCO2 could be713 µatm, suggesting that the flux may be greater than estimated due to the varied flux and activity across the pockmarks during the leakages.
Exploitation Route Modeling simulations and the results on the local impacts of leaked CO2 on the seawater.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment

Description EU-FP7
Amount € 295,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Department Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 03/2011 
End 04/2015
Description RSE
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 04/2015
Description Royal Academy of Engineering
Amount £8,300 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2010 
End 06/2010
Title MPI-LBM 
Description A new numerical scheme with thermodynamic consistency in pseudopotential lattice Boltzmann models was developed to make it possible to simulate the two-phase flows with very large density ratio. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Paper had been downloaded more than 60 times within one year published. 
Title HW-LBM 
Description A new two-phase flow model based on lattice Boltzmann methods has been developed, which is thermodynamic consistency for pseudo potential. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The proposed thermodynamic consistency for pseudo potential makes the two-phase LBM numerically stable by reducing the unphysical velocity generated at the interface. 
Title HW-TFP 
Description A computational fluid dynamic model of two-phase plumes in a small-scale turbulent ocean has been developed to predict the impacts of leaked CO2 on marine environment. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The model results have been used in the IPCC special report on CCS. 
Description MBARI 
Organisation Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide theoretical and numerical analysis on the filed experiments we carried out in Monetary Bay.
Collaborator Contribution MBARI provided the ROV to carry out the field experiment on CO2 plume dynamics in the ocean.
Impact We published papers, such as, Brewer, P. G., B. Chen, R. Warzinki, A. Baggeroer, E. T. Peltzer, R. M. Dunk, and P. Walz (2006), Three-dimensional acoustic monitoring and modeling of a deep-sea CO2 droplet cloud, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L23607, doi:10.1029/2006GL027181.
Description National Oceanography Centre 
Organisation National Oceanography Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborate in field observation and modelling of dynamics of leaked CO2 in the seawater. We provide the bubble dynamics and pH changes in small-scale ocean of leaked CO2 for the design of filed observations.
Collaborator Contribution The observation data obtained from the field experiment were used for the modelling calibration and further predictions of the suggested CO2 leak cases.
Impact We worked together to join an EU project ECO2.
Start Year 2010
Description PLM 
Organisation Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The small-scale model we developed can provide the data of the changes in pH produced by leaked CO2 to the seawater to the regional-scale model and the biological impact model that developed by PML.
Collaborator Contribution The models developed from PML can predict the long term marine impacts due to leaked CO2 to the seawater.
Impact 1). One of the paper published by Nature Climate Change, 2014.(Blackford, J, H. Stahl, J. Bull, B. Berges, M. Cevatoglu, A. Lichtschlag, D. Connelly, R. James, J. Kita, D. Long, M. Naylor , K. Shitashima, D. Smith, P. Taylor, I. Wright, M. Akhurst , B. Chen, et al, 'Detection and impacts of leakage from sub-seafloor deep geological carbon dioxide storage', Nature Climate Change, 4, 1011-1016, (2014) DOI: doi:10.1038/nclimate2381) 2). We also collaborated to join an EU project ECO2 3). Yes, this is the multi-disciplinary collaboration, the multi-phase flow with biological impacts.
Start Year 2010
Description SAMS 
Organisation Scottish Association For Marine Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution 1). The preliminary design of the Oban field experiment of CO2 injection and the observations of CO2 bubble plumes. 2). We provided the modelling analysis of the data observed from the field exp. carried out in Oban. 3). We submitted a jiont paper to IJGHC.
Collaborator Contribution The staff of SAMS carried out the field observation and provided the data of CO2 bubble plume and the ocean current, which are used by the model we developed to predict the impacts of leaked CO2 on the seawater.
Impact 1). We jionted submitted a paper to IJGHGC, Sellami, N., M. Dewar, H. Stahl. Chen,' Dynamic of rising CO2 bubbles in the Scottish seawater Part 1 - The Experiment'.
Start Year 2010
Description University of Bergen 
Organisation University of Bergen
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We developed a numerical model of CO2 bubble/droplet plume to predict the impact of leaked CO2 from pipeline to the ocean.
Collaborator Contribution UoB provide the data of leakage rate and ocean currents.
Impact To continue the collaboration, we submitted a joint proposal to NRC for a new project.
Start Year 2010
Title The LBM Two-phase flow code 
Description This is not a product, but a open-software for those who would like to do some two-phase flow simulation by LBM. The link of the code is here, https://github.com/sorush-khajepor/listLBM. This is a code based on the theories we developed, which can be found from papers we published in the publication section. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The software had been viewed by many researchers. 
URL https://github.com/sorush-khajepor/listLBM
Description New students visiting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Introduction to the project and discussion with the students as they asked the questions on the CO2, global warming, CCS, and the marin biological impacts due to leakage of CO2 into seawater.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011