Capturing and preventing the release of CO₂ into the atmosphere was first suggested in 1977. Carbon capture technologies have been used since the 1920s. The injection of CO₂ into underground reservoirs where it remains trapped for thousands of years works on a similar principle to how hydrocarbons are trapped and accumulate in oil reservoirs underground.
Since the early 1970s, CO₂ from gas processing has been captured for use in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), a process developed to increase oil recovery from subsea reservoirs by injecting CO₂. This process has proven very successful, with 60-70% of the CO₂ remaining underground. Millions of tonnes of CO₂ are now injected into oil reservoirs globally every year.
The exemplar for commercial CO₂ injection is the Sleipner project in Norway (North Sea). Established in 1996, Sleipner was the world’s first commercial CO₂ storage project, storing gas captured from natural gas processing in an offshore, sub-surface geological formation (reservoir). In the 26 years since it became operational, the project has stored approximately 900,000 tonnes of CO₂ each year. A paper by Furre et al in 2017 reported that 3D seismic monitoring revealed no leakage of the sequestered CO₂ from the Sleipner reservoir. This has been confirmed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 2021, the global capacity of CCS facilities was reported at 40Mtpa, with hundreds of new commercial facilities in development. Many more are needed to reach the 5,600 Mtpa of CO₂ storage required by 2050 to limit global warming to 2°C.