The marine system plays a significant role in providing solutions to the so-called energy trilemma: the need for sustainable, economic and secure energy. Offshore windfarms already provide significant power generation; PML has developed models to investigate near and far field impacts and potentially opportunities for co-location with other marine activities. Capture of fossil fuel and other industrial CO2 emissions and storage beneath our shelf seas (Carbon Capture and Storage) are vital if we are to meet emissions targets. PML models are at the forefront of research into impacts and monitoring of CCS. 

Carbon Capture and Storage

CCS is a climate change mitigation strategy by which CO2 is captured from point sources such as fossil fuel power generation or other industrial process, transported and stored deep underground in suitable geological formations. In the UK, as with many other countries, geological storage options lie offshore.

We have been actively involved in CCS R&D since 2004, initially considering potential environmental impacts in the unlikely event of CO2 leaking from storage, more recently in assessing the optimal monitoring strategies required for both assurance and EU regulations. Central to this has been the development of models that track the dispersion of plumes of dissolved CO2 within realistic hydrodynamic scenarios (see simulation). This work demonstrates that any leakage event would have a unique footprint, often with plumes advected around the release point over a tidal cycle. We can show that small leakage events can only impact areas measured by a few metres and are very unlikely to have a detrimental effect on regional ecosystems. In tidal regimes like the North Sea dispersion is rapid, and once leakage ceases, the return to “normal” water chemistry is quick. Our models also provide the only comprehensive assessment of the marine baseline – understanding the natural variability of the system is crucial for determining appropriate criteria that can be used to identify anomalies.

Further information

Please contact: Jerry Blackford

Related projects

Pre-ACT - Pressure control and conformance management for safe and efficient CO2 storage - Accelerating CCS Technologies
ECO2, EU Framework 7, 2011-2015
MMV, Measurement, Modelling and Verification of CO2
QICS, NERC/RCUK Energy Programme 2010-2015
STEMM-CCS, Horizon 2020, 2016-2020

Related publications

  • Blackford J, Artioli Y, Clark J, de Mora L. 2017. Monitoring of offshore geological carbon storage integrity: implications of natural variability in the marine system and the assessment of anomaly detection criteria. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control. 64, 99-112. 10.1016/j.iggc.2017.06.020
  • Lessin G, Artioli Y, Queiros AM, Widdicombe S, Blackford JC (2016). Modelling impacts and recovery in benthic communities exposed to localised high CO2. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 109 (1). 267-280. 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.05.071
  • Blackford JC, Stahl H, Bull JM, Bergès BJP, Cevatoglu M, Lichtschlag A, Connelly DP, James RH, Kita J, Long D, Naylor M, Shitashima K, Smith D, Taylor P, Wright I, Akhurst M, Chen B, Gernon TM, Hauton C, Hayashi M, Kaieda H, Leighton TG, Sato T, Sayer MDJ, Suzumura M, Tait K, Vardy ME, White PR, Widdicombe, S (2014) Detection and impacts of leakage from sub-seafloor deep geological carbon dioxide storageNature Climate Change10.1038/nclimate2381

Idealised Carbon Capture Storage scheme

This video shows a hypersaline point source release at the surface as it progresses through an FVCOM model domain in the northern North Sea.


Offshore wind

Shelf seas comprise 7% of the world's oceans and host enormous economic activity. Offshore renewables developed in response to rising energy demand require analysis of potential impacts.

Satellite data of offshore wind farms has shown that they influence the sea surface several kilometres away from the wind turbines.  Whilst satellites allow us unprecedented access to the sea’s surface, they are not able to see below it; but computer models of the sea can!

We use state-of-the-art models to explore how introducing offshore energy devices could alter the behaviour of the sea, with particular focus on how those changes might affect tides, stratification, marine ecosystem function and hydrodynamics in the north-west European continental shelf. We can provide information to help assess how offshore operations can be best planned to maximise benefit and minimise impact, a benefit for both regulators and operators.

Further information

Please contact: Jerry Blackford

Related publications

  • Cazenave PW, Torres R and Allen JI. 2016. Unstructured grid modelling of offshore wind farm impacts on seasonally stratified shelf seas, Progress in Oceanography, Volume 145, Pages 25–41, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2016.04.004
  • Waggitt, JJ, Cazenave PW, Torres R, Williamson BJ and Scott BE. (submitted) Predictable microhabitat use among deep diving seabirds in a high energy environment, Journal of Applied Ecology.
  • Torres R and Uncles RJ. “Modeling of Estuarine and Coastal Waters.” In Modeling of Estuarine and Coastal Waters, Vol. 2. Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science. Elsevier, 2011.
A vertical slice through six wind turbine bases in the eastern Irish Sea showing water horizontal speed (top), water vertical velocity (middle) and temperature (bottom). The turbine bases increase mixing in stratified shelf seas.

A vertical slice through six wind turbine bases in the eastern Irish Sea showing water horizontal speed (top), water vertical velocity (middle) and temperature (bottom). The animation shows that turbine bases increase mixing in stratified shelf seas.


Coastal Infrastructure

Coastal infrastructures are susceptible to ingresses from marine plants and animals. As water is taken in for use in cooling for example, jellyfish, seagrass or fish larvae may also enter. This can cause a range of problems and lead to the temporary closure of some systems.
PML is part of a project working with the EDF energy company to develop a monitoring approach that could enable coastal infrastructures to detect such marine ingress events ahead of time instead of react once they are already in the system. The project is exploring using satellites to detect whether seagrass has was broken down before it reaches the area of the water intake, along with capacity to monitor growth of nearby seagrass patch. The project uses habitat modelling to look at jellyfish blooms to determine which environmental conditions (e.g. sea surface temperature, primary production) can lead to appearance of a large number of jellyfish. The habitat model could then be paired with remote sensing to estimate the likelihood of a jellyfish bloom happening in the near future. While the project focuses on UK water the approaches will be transferable to other regions

Further information

Please contact: Sevrine Sailley

processed remote sensing image from the coastal water in Shendong

This is a processed remote sensing image from the coastal water in Shendong. It shows area where there is seagrass aquaculture. It is an example of how remote sensing can be used to detect floating vegetation and how this could be used in regard to seaweed marine ingress events.