One experiment, two ships… and a lot of clever new technology!
The keystone of STEMM-CCS is a novel experiment to simulate a sub-seafloor CO2 leak under real-life conditions in the North Sea. Over a period of three weeks in spring 2019, CO2 gas – augmented with inert chemical tracers – will be injected into seafloor sediments at a carefully chosen experimental site near the Goldeneye complex. The consequences of this CO2 release will be carefully monitored by a sophisticated array of chemical sensors, acoustic devices, visual observations and seismic surveys operated by scientists aboard research vessels RRS James Cook and RV Poseidon.
Preparations for this experiment have been underway since 2016, not only in the development of new technology capable of detecting the smallest changes in marine conditions, but also in establishing a robust and reliable environmental baseline against which to monitor for CO2 emissions during the experiment – without knowing the background chemistry of the seawater at the experimental site, it would be impossible to detect or measure any leak. To date, this has involved detailed bathymetric mapping of the experimental area, continuous monitoring of environmental conditions via deployment of seafloor landers, extensive water column and seafloor sediment sampling, and benthic ecology surveys. These in situ measurements are supported by the development of a comprehensive regional model to predict seasonal changes in baseline conditions.
Innovation in sensing technology and measurement techniques is key to this experiment. As well as overcoming some significant engineering challenges, STEMM-CCS has developed and tested a range of new approaches and instrumentation specifically oriented towards detecting very small physical and chemical changes that could indicate CO2 escape. This is an ambitious experiment, whose ultimate aim is to test the effectiveness of existing and new technologies in detecting and tracing CO2 leaks, and to inform cost-effective strategies for the long-term monitoring of marine CCS storage sites.
Find out more about this expedition: