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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


DECC announces £647,441 funding to Durham-led consortium on ‘Carbon Storage Monitoring using Muon technology’

(27 November 2012)

Diagram of the Boulby Deep Underground Science Facility

Diagram of the Boulby Deep Underground Science Facility (STFC)

A Durham-led research consortium has won government and industry funding of over £1.4m to develop a novel and more cost effective technique for the continuous monitoring of future carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites for carbon dioxide (CO2) by using cosmic rays.

A Durham-led research consortium has won government and industry funding of over £1.4m to develop a novel and more cost effective technique for the continuous monitoring of future carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites for carbon dioxide (CO2) by using cosmic rays.

Geoscientists, particle physicists and engineers will work together to examine the potential of using muons -sub-atomic particles from cosmic rays- which cascade from the upper atmosphere and go on to penetrate rock several kilometres underground. The detection of cosmic ray muons can be used to map the density profile of the material above the detectors and hence measure on-going levels of CO2 in any potential carbon store.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) is providing £647,000 for the monitoring project alongside matched funding from industry and the devices developed will be tested deep underground at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) research laboratory at Boulby mine on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors.

The team comprises Durham University, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, University of Sheffield, University of Bath, Newcastle University and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech supported by Premier Oil & Gas and Cleveland Potash Limited.

Professor Jon Gluyas, project leader and member of the DEI Management Committee at Durham University, said:

"This technology crosses between traditional scientific disciplines and could radically reduce the cost of monitoring CO2 storage sites, saving perhaps hundreds of millions of pounds per annum. The essential support from DECC and industry partners will allow us to develop improved detectors and to model and test our technology in practice.”

Carbon storage could play a major part of UK and global environmental policies to tackle global warming but still allow us to generate clean, affordable energy.

The current monitoring methodology is expensive and typically involves the collection of seismic data which enables snapshots of carbon storage levels to be taken over time. Muon tomography offers the chance to develop a continuous and passive monitoring system for deep sub-surface storage sites.

Dr Sean Paling, Director and Senior Scientist of the Boulby Deep Underground Science Facility said of the award:

“We are very pleased to be a part of such important research on carbon capture and storage. The Boulby Deep Underground Science Facility will be a key partner in this project as it is one of the few places available in the world for the team to develop CCS monitoring technology in an environment that is safe, relatively easy to access and one that simulates the depths and geology within which future Carbon Capture sites will operate. Our involvement in this work further demonstrates the versatility of the facility we have at Boulby and the increasing breadth of internationally significant science areas we are participating in."

Further Information:

The DECC grant is part of a larger funding stream of £18.5m for CCS innovation projects, the latest funding to be awarded from the Government’s 4-year, £125m CCS R&D Programme. 13 projects have been awarded funding to develop and test new ideas to further reduce the cost of CCS. To view the DECC press release and access information about the other funded projects please visit the DECC news website.

Boulby Underground Science Facility, Boulby Mine, Loftus, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Cleveland, TS13 4UZ.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) refers to the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from major sources of emission, such as fossil fuel power stations, to prevent it entering the atmosphere. The carbon is then transported (this could be in fluid form by pipeline) to a storage site. Old oil and gas fields, such as those in the North Sea, are considered to be potential storage sites. Capturing and storing carbon dioxide is seen as a way to prevent global warming and ocean acidification. The Carbon Capture and Storage Cost Reduction Task Force has recently published an interim report confirming that Carbon Capture and Storage has the potential to compete with other low carbon forms of energy by the 2020s.

About STFC

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security.

STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils in the UK. It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Visit the STFC website at

About The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.