Imperial College London

Global climate change to be tackled, thanks to a $US 70 million agreement

Historic agreement

The Faculty of Engineering signs an agreement with Shell , Qatar Science & Technology Park and Qatar Petroleum <em>- News</em>

Monday 9 June 2008
By Colin Smith

Sustainably developing oil and gas reserves in the Middle East is the focus of a new US $70 million partnership announced today.

The 10-year research partnership between Imperial College London, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Science and Technology Park and Shell aims to develop better methods of recovering oil and gas while reducing levels of CO2 that are released into the atmosphere.

Imperial and Shell are currently working together to understand how CO2 behaves in sandstone oil reservoirs such as those found in the North Sea. They will now join forces with Qatar Petroleum to look at carbonate reservoirs, many of which are found in the Middle East, and explore ways to increase the recovery of oil and gas and develop safe and secure methods of capturing and storing CO2 to help mitigate the effects of climate change.


Carbonate reservoirs consist of fractured and porous calcium carbonate rock which stores oil and gas inside the rock, making it difficult for engineers to recover the maximum amount from reserves. The rock’s complex structure also makes it challenging to use depleted carbonate reservoirs for CO2 storage.

Scientists believe improving their understanding of these carbonate reservoirs will enable them to develop new techniques for CO2 storage and improve methods for extracting oil and gas.

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To achieve this, researchers will characterise carbonate reservoirs in detail and will develop advanced computer modelling and simulations to establish an in-depth knowledge of their rock structures and the way fluids like oil, water, natural gas and carbon dioxide move within them. This in turn will improve their understanding of how these rocks trap gas and other fluids.

Researchers will use this knowledge to draw up new carbon management plans and processes and identify suitable carbonate rock formations in Qatar to store CO2 emitted from power stations, oil refineries and other manufacturing plants for thousands of years.

Programme Director Geoffrey Maitland, Professor of Energy Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

“If we are to continue to use fossil fuels without causing catastrophic climate change, it is essential that we capture and store the CO2 we produce. Imperial is very excited about building on our existing strong collaboration with Shell, to work with them and our new partners in Qatar to develop a deeper understanding of carbonate reservoirs which will enable vast quantities of CO2 to be stored securely underground in Qatar.

“In addition, this agreement will enable Imperial to train the carbon management engineers of the future who will return to drive research and development in the region, building the Qatari local capacity to turn this challenge of CO2 mitigation into a reality.”

Sir Roy Anderson, Imperial Rector Elect, and His Excellency Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah

The agreement was celebrated at Imperial College London with an event hosted by Imperial’s Rector Elect, Sir Roy Anderson, with guests including Qatar’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry, His Excellency Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, and Ms Linda Cook, Executive Director of Shell Gas & Power.

Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College, welcomed the collaboration as a major move in developing the world’s fossil fuels sustainably. He said:

“This is an exciting long-term partnership which aims to tackle one of the major challenges facing the world - securing sustainable sources of energy in a way that does not exacerbate climate damage. One the beauties of collaboration is that we can achieve far more together than would be possible individually, so I am delighted that Imperial has Shell and Qatar Petroleum as its partners for this vital endeavour.”

Professor Martin Blunt, Head of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering added:

"Under this project we will work with colleagues in Qatar and Shell to understand how oil, water, natural gas and carbon dioxide flow in geologically complex reservoirs. The goal is to demonstrate effective storage of carbon dioxide in a field trial while training a new generation of scientists and engineers in reservoir management."

The agreement will see Imperial’s Departments of Chemical Engineering and Earth Science and Engineering recruit a number of new academic staff, 20 PhD students and 20 postdoctoral researchers to push forward research both in the UK and in Qatar. It will also provide the critical expertise for Qatar and Shell as they seek to develop these resources sustainably.

The new programme is closely associated with Imperial’s Energy Futures Lab and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, both of which were showcased to HE Al-Attiyah at the launch event and provide the strong multi-disciplinary environment required for this research.

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