UK and US transmission system operator National Grid and the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) have announced plans to conduct the UK’s first drilling assessment of a saline formation site for the storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

The multi million pound project represents a major step forward in the creation of a carbon capture and storage industry in the UK for multiple power stations and industrial sites, to store their carbon dioxide rather than release it into the atmosphere. The drilling site will be located 70 km of Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, in northeastern England.

The ETI has invested £2 million in the project.

National Grid will lead the drilling programme at the identified saline formation – a layer of porous sandstone rock over 1 km below the seabed. The operation, using standard oil and gas drilling activities, will involve drilling up to two wells in the seabed to gather data to confirm that CO2 can be safely and permanently stored at the site, while also confirming the scale and economics of the store.

Jim Ward, head of CCS at National Grid said: “We believe we are the first in the UK to physically assess a saline site for the storage of carbon dioxide. This drilling operation is a major step forward in the development of long term, large scale CCS cluster of transportation networks and storage facilities in the UK, and we’re excited to be working with the ETI on this project.”

He added: “We have engaged experts who have confirmed that our chosen site is the best potential store in the UK southern North Sea and the ideal foundation to develop a CCS network from.”

Existing information has confirmed the store is very large and capable of storing CO2 from several sources over a number of decades, says National Grid. The site is close to the shore and near to two major clusters of CO2 emitters in the UK making it an ideal storage location.

Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association said: “This announcement by National Grid and the ETI is tremendous news for the development of CCS in the UK. The appraisal work marks an important step towards the development of saline formations – storage sites which contain by far the largest estimated storage capacity in the UK, and will therefore be fundamental to the establishment of commercial CCS networks that will enable the UK to move cost-effectively towards a low carbon economy.”