EPA Research shows that Clare rocks not suitable for carbon storage

Date released: May 24 2010

A new research report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the geology of West Clare is unsuitable for long term carbon storage, a key technology in the fight against climate change.  The study, An Assessment of the Potential for Geological Storage of CO2 in the Vicinity of Moneypoint, Co. Clare, was funded under the EPA Climate Change Research Programme - with support from the Geological Survey of Ireland.

Carbon dioxide is the most important long-life greenhouse gas implicated in driving climate change.  Carbon Capture and Storage is widely regarded as being essential if fossil fuels, such as coal and peat, are to be used for future large scale energy production.  At European level this technology is already in use, with provision for funding further projects being provided within the EU emission trading scheme.

The costs of Carbon Capture and Storage increase when the carbon dioxide has to be transported long distances from the generation source to a long term storage location and therefore this research study assessed potential for Carbon Capture and Storage in Ireland.  This research study was targeted at the West Clare region, where Moneypoint power station, one of the largest carbon dioxide emission sources in Ireland, is located.

The study, which involved advanced re-analysis of existing geological data and new drilling investigations in the region, found that the complexity and characteristics of the rocks which underlie West Clare are unsuitable for storing carbon dioxide.  The porous nature of the rock and permeability of the rock would not support such a use, the space available within the rock for carbon dioxide storage is limited and the effort needed to inject carbon dioxide into that space would be prohibitive.

The project findings also have implications for earlier assessments of the potential storage capacity around Ireland as it suggests that this may be less than originally considered. However further extensive geological studies will be required to confirm this.

Welcoming the report Laura Burke, Director, EPA Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use said:

“This has been a very useful and worthwhile study and will assist in decision making by the power generation sector.  The report points to the need to better assess the various options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The project leader, Mark Holdstock, Aurum Exploration Services, stated:

“This was a very intensive study which brought together a wide range of expertise from across Europe and here in Ireland. We examined the geology of the area in great detail, building a 3D geological model of the region. This was linked to new data from drilling in order to provide a realistic picture of sub-surface Clare, from which a complex geological setting has been interpreted. Amongst other factors, the porosity and permeability of potential storage horizons are far below the accepted thresholds for geological storage of carbon dioxide. This research clearly demonstrates that geology of West Clare is unsuitable for storage carbon dioxide.”

Also commenting on the report, Peadar McArdle, GSI Director, stated:

“This is an important contribution to development of our knowledge of the geological potential for Carbon Capture and Storage in Ireland. Much more work is needed to build up a picture of the onshore and offshore geology of Ireland and its suitability for Carbon Capture and Storage. This is an important building block from which we can learn many lessons.”

The project was funded under the EPA Climate Change Research Programme. It was led by the EPA and GSI and involved SEAI, DCENR, DEHLG and the ESB. 

The report, entitled An Assessment of the Potential for Geological Storage of CO2 in the Vicinity of Moneypoint, Co. Clare, is available on the EPA website at http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/displayISO19115.jsp?isoID=173


For further information contact Niamh Leahy, EPA Press Office at media@epa.ie or 0539170770