LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland's University of Edinburgh on Wednesday opened a centre to research the use of carbon to retrieve oil otherwise hard to extract from reservoirs, a method which could unlock three billion barrels of trapped North Sea oil worth 190 billion pounds ($300 billion).
A number of developers of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects have already suggested using the method, also known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) that has been used in North America for decades, to enhance the economic viability of their plants which are expensive to finance.
"The captured CO2 would be transported to the North Sea where it is injected into oilfields, forcing out additional oil, with the CO2 remaining permanently stored deep underground," the University of Edinburgh said in a statement.
Experts say the use of CO2-EOR could reduce the price of electricity generated from CCS plants to 30 pounds per megawatt-hour, a level comparable with onshore wind.
The centre is funded by the Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise and CCS developer 2CO, which has already proposed using CO2-EOR in its Don Valley CCS project.
The research will be conducted under the umbrella of Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey.
"Our research will provide an independent voice to establish the conditions by which CO2-EOR can be made environmentally, commercially and technically feasible in the North Sea," said Professor Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh, who will lead the CO2-EOR Centre.
The UK government is supporting the use of CCS with a one-billion-pound funding scheme as it sees the technology as key to reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Mark Potter)