New funding for carbon capture and storage research

Published: 6 November 2023

A researcher from the James Watt School of Engineering has received new funding for a cutting-edge carbon capture and storage (CCS) research project.

A researcher from the James Watt School of Engineering has received new funding for a cutting-edge carbon capture and storage (CCS) research project.
Dr Yihuai Zhang is one of 13 CCS researchers from across the UK who are sharing in funding from the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Community Network (UKCCSRC).
CCS is essential for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change. Research to make the technology more effective, safer and cheaper is constantly taking place in universities, businesses and research facilities around the UK. 
The depleted carbonate oil and gas field can be an ideal storage place for carbon storage due to the large storage capacity and existing infrastructure. However, when injected CO2 dissolves in the formation salty water inside rock, it becomes acidic,  and the carbonate rock is sensitive to such conditions. This alters the rock's structure, creating pathways for CO2 to spread away from the injection site, and changing how the rock traps the CO2 bubbles within its pores.
Dr Zhang’s newly-funded project will use pioneering 3D X-ray imaging techniques to and investigate such complex physical and chemical interactions in porous carbonate rocks when CO2 is injected and trapped.
By scrutinizing these interconnected effects at both the pore and field scales, the research can identify potential risks to safe, secure long-term storage. The pore-scale observations will inform larger numerical models to optimize real-world injection design. Open-access datasets will enable broad assessment of diverse storage sites worldwide.
Dr Zhang’s research could also help advance breakthroughs in fields from contaminant control to clean energy recovery. The innovative experimental and imaging techniques could find new applications across research on flow in porous materials across a diverse range of use cases, from fuel cells to surgical masks.
Dr Zhang said: “I work in CCS because our world is at a crucial point with the impacts of global warming, and while we still rely on fossil fuels, it's imperative we have a solution to prevent the excess CO2 they produce from reaching the atmosphere. CCS provides that vital tool.
“Our project utilizes cutting-edge X-ray imaging to understand, at a micro-level, how CO2 interacts with carbonate rocks when injected deep underground. By gaining this in-depth knowledge, we can optimize the safety and effectiveness of CCS in carbonate reservoirs, ultimately advancing our global efforts against dangerous climate change and ensuring the security of these storage methods for future generations.”                                                                           
Professor Jon Gibbins, UKCCSRC Director, said: “This UKCCSRC Flexible Funding round will be tackling a wide range of projects suggested by the needs of the UK's growing CCS deployment sector.  As this call was well-subscribed, and there is clearly a major opportunity for us to help build UK CCS wealth-creation capacity in CCS using this route, the UKCCSRC, with its proven track record of rapid and effective project procurement and funding, is actively seeking additional funds for future calls.”
A total of £365,102 was awarded to the projects, which all support the UK Government’s net-zero objectives and will last between 3-9 months.  The UKCCCSRC is able to fund these projects thanks to their ongoing funding support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.
The UKCCSRC supports, strengthens and integrates the UK carbon capture and storage community.  Created in 2012, it is funded by EPSRC and based at the University of Sheffield, under the directorship of Professor Jon Gibbins. 
The Centre funds research through academics at numerous UK universities and runs regular events to share this research and connect the community, including international and industry contacts.

First published: 6 November 2023