Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 5

Submission from 2OC


  1.1  2OC is a Geo-pressure company, making use of the natural pressure within gas pipelines to drive turbines to produce carbon free electricity. Geo-pressure, sometimes known as "sub-surface" pressure, is a naturally occurring, regenerating force, responsible (in part or whole) for such widespread phenomena ranging from artesian wells and hot springs, to earthquakes and volcanoes.

  Geo-pressure drives natural gas around our pipeline network. Before it can be delivered into our homes and offices, the pressure has to be reduced. 2OC taps into this release of excess pressure to drive turbines, which produce clean electricity.

  1.2  In December 2006, OFGEM approved Geo-pressure for inclusion in the Renewables Obligation Order. This enabled 2OC to go ahead and sign an agreement with National Grid to begin work on a £50-60 million pilot project installing turbines on two sites in London. (See attached Document 1 page 8/9 Press Release from 2OC and National Grid)

  There is potential to install up to 2,000 turbines on existing brownfield sites in the UK, producing up to 1,000 MW (1GW) of local distributed power—the equivalent to a nuclear power station.

  1.3  2OC's plans to roll this technology out across the UK have recently been put in doubt following the DTI's consultation document on the future of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCS) which states:

    "The Government views the eligibility of electricity generated from geopressure where it occurs in conjunction with fossil fuel (eg natural gas) as an anomaly in the legislation and wishes to exclude geopressure associated with fossil fuels from the RO on the grounds it is not a renewable source of electricity. Geopressure not associated with fossil fuels will continue to be eligible". (Renewable Energy—Reform of the Renewables Obligation. DTI May 2007 Para 3.10 and Q5: p. 20)

  The DTI then asks: "Do you agree with the proposal that Geopressure occurring in conjunction with fossil fuel should be excluded from the RO?"

  2OC would like to ask the Committee to consider including support for Geo-pressure, even where it arises in conjunction with fossil fuels, in your final report, because it can make an immediate contribution to reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions.


  Mercer is an entrepreneur who runs a successful business leadership company called Footdown. He is passionate about the need to tackle man-made climate change and is keen to do all he can to reduce UK carbon emissions. He is currently going ahead with plans to demolish his existing home on the outskirts of Bath and build what will be one of the country's first purpose built carbon- neutral houses. He recently set up "Entrepreneurs with conscience" a not for profit organisation trying to encourage the UK's most senior business leaders to adopt sustainable practice. It is supported by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Climate Group.

  It was through his mentoring business connections that Mercer first became aware of technology being manufactured and sold by Cryostar in Switzerland. Essentially, this was a turbine fitted within a gas pipeline which could be used to generate electricity. The turbine was driven by the natural Geo-pressure within the pipeline. Mercer thought it was an idea that would work well in the UK given our existing gas pipeline network.

  Mercer realised that Geo-pressure energy, could not compete with the cheapest forms of electricity generation like gas or coal-fired and turned to the government to see what support was available for this fledgling low-carbon business. It was not forthcoming. Undeterred, Mercer pushed ahead with his plans and National Grid expressed an interest in the technology.

  In December 2006, OFGEM accepted 2OC's arguments that their Geo-pressure energy did qualify for price support under the Renewables Obligation Order (ROO) and was able to access price support via the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC).

  For Mercer, this was the culmination of many years' work and huge personal/financial investment on his part and his private backers. It enabled him to set up a joint venture with National Grid, who saw the technology as enabling them to generate all their internal energy needs within a very few years. The two pilot projects in London are now going ahead, as the Joint Venture spends an estimated £50-60 million on installing turbines.

  However, the DTI is now querying OFGEM's decision to grant ROO status to 2OC, because of its connection to natural gas. It is asking for opinions on this by 6 September 2007. Mercer is now embarking on a lobbying and PR campaign to persuade the DTI that removing ROO from 2OC is wrong and goes against everything the government says it is doing to encourage new forms of renewable energy and technologies to help reduce the UK's carbon emissions.

  To find out more about Mercer, Footdown and 2OC please visit and


Geo-pressure a renewable form of energy

  3.1  In April 2006 the Renewables Obligation Order (ROO) came into force imposing an obligation on all electricity suppliers in England and Wales to produce evidence that it has supplied customers in Great Britain specified amounts of electricity generated by using renewable sources. The ROO does not define renewable source nor does it set out a list of those technologies which are capable of qualifying as a renewable source. However, Section 32 of the Electricity Act defines renewable sources as:

    "... sources of energy other than fossil fuel or nuclear fuel ... [including] waste of which not more than a specified proportion is waste which is, or is derived from, fossil fuel".

  The Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (2004) defines "renewable energy" as:

    "any energy source that is naturally occurring and that cannot in theory be exhausted eg solar energy, tidal, wind or wave power, geothermal energy".

  The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) defines renewable as:

    "a source of energy that is not depleted by use, such as water, wind, or solar power".

  3.2  In the legal submissions to OFGEM, 2OC argued that Geo-pressure occurs naturally and cannot in theory be depleted by use. Since Geo-pressure is not a substance or object, it cannot be regarded as waste.

  In a report requested by the DTI and commissioned by 2OC, Dr Tony Batchelor of GeoScience Ltd describes how Geo-pressure (or sub surface pressure) is a naturally occurring and constantly regenerating force which begins hundreds, sometimes thousands of metres below surface and is responsible (in part or whole) for such diverse natural phenomena as artesian and hot water springs, geysers, volcanoes and earthquakes. In simple terms, as long as planet Earth continues, so will Geo-pressure. (The nature and source of sub surface pressures—Report by GeoScience Ltd to 2OC. June 2007)

Geo-pressure: How will it help the UK to meet its targets to reduce CO2 emissions?

  3.3  Geo-pressure could knock several percentage points off UK carbon emissions by 2010. It is proven technology already in operation in Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Italy. It is hugely efficient operating at around 85% efficiency. This compares with efficiency rates of 45-55% for nuclear; about 30% for wind; around 20% solar.

  The primary goal of the UK's energy policy is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by some 60% by the middle of this century, with real progress by 2020.

  The 2OC National Grid joint venture could result in savings of 10MtC by 2020; with an annual on-going reduction of 1MtC. 1MtC is the equivalent to the amount of carbon emitted by the whole of the National Health Service. (Source: Climate Change Programme Review Consultation document)

  This is the equivalent of between 4 and 6.6% of the total UK reductions goal worth between £350 million and £1.4 billion in carbon credits.

  (These carbon-saving calculations were undertaken by 2OC according to the conversion factors and procedures set out by DEFRA and validated by environmental consultants Enviros.)

Geo-pressure: How it works in generation

  3.4  When gas emerges from the ground it does so thanks to Geo-pressure. This pressure is very high and the gas could not be used safely by end users. At several points in the system, the gas passes through "pressure let-down" stations, at which the pressure of the gas is reduced by squeezing it through a valve. Reducing the pressure in this way releases energy.

No gas is burned or used up in the process. It is the natural Geo-pressure of the gas which drives the turbine (which, incidentally, can be held in one hand) to produce the power.

  3.5  Electricity from Geo-pressure has the added advantage of generating power during peak periods on the grid, daily as well as seasonal peaks. As gas demand increases, so does Geo-pressure generation. Gas demand is closely linked to electricity demand, so Geo-pressure generates electricity at the most useful time, reducing the need for surplus capacity on the grid and of course, helping to mitigate the negative aspects of burning gas.

  3.6  Geo-pressure technology requires no extra land-take and has very limited visual impact on what are already existing brownfield industrial sites. This means there are likely to be few, if any planning problems. 2OC would simply being adding a small turbine to plant already in situ.

  There are over 2000 pressure-reduction sites in the UK that could host a Geo-pressure turbine, adding up to a total capacity of around 1000MW or 1GW. This is equivalent to the output of an average nuclear power station.

  2OC, in partnership with National Grid, is making plans to roll out Geo-pressure technology across the gas network.

Geo-pressure: The costs of generating electricity

  3.7  2OC estimates that the capital cost of generating capacity through geo-pressure is around £1 million per MW capacity, or £1,000 per KW capacity. By comparison, large-scale wind energy costs between £600-£1,500 per KW capacity. (Source: Wind Power in the UK: A guide to the key issues surrounding onshore wind power development in the UK, Sustainable Development Commission 2005) Add in that Geo-pressure operates at around 85% capacity, much higher than the 27-28% for wind and that it can generate power at peak periods as discussed in 3.5 above.

Geo-pressure: Recommendations for action

  It is the hope of 2OC that this submission provides sufficient prima facie evidence to the Select Committee that Geo-pressure technology as utilised by 2OC and National Grid—offers a cost-effective way of achieving significant carbon savings—around 10% of the projected UK shortfall from the 2010 target.

  2OC has always had faith in the technology. However, its full contribution will only be realised if the take-up of the technology is helped by government recognition and support through ROO.

  OFGEM has accredited Geo-pressure within the current Renewables Obligation, as has the DTI. However, the DTI consultation document on the reform of the Renewables Obligation, outlined in 1.3 poses a very specific threat to our business plan.

  We fail to understand why the DTI, having accepted along with the Regulator that Geo-pressure is renewable, now, only weeks later, seeks to exclude it, because we make use of natural gas as the carrier? We must emphasise again that no gas is used or burned in this process.

  Natural gas will be a source of energy in this country for decades to come—are we really going to waste the Geo-pressure which delivers it? And the same technique (tapping into excess Geo-pressure) can be used with imported gas arriving (under huge pressure) by ship—Geo-pressure will continue long after the UK's gas reserves have been used up. Again, are we going to cast it aside because it is somehow "tainted" by a link to a fossil fuel?

  2OC respectfully asks the Select Committee to consider responding to the DTI after taking into account the evidence submitted above.

June 2007

Supplementary material




Gas Pressure in National Grid's Pipelines to be used to Generate Renewable Energy

    —  National Grid and 2OC to use innovative geo-pressure technology to tackle climate change.

    —  Pilot schemes agreed that could generate over 45MW.

    —  Moves National Grid towards its target of sourcing all its internal electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010.

  National Grid and geo-pressure energy company 2OC have today announced an agreement to form a joint venture that will use innovative technology to generate renewable electricity from natural gas pressure in the pipe network.

  The joint venture between National Grid and 2OC will build pilot projects to generate electricity at two of National Grid's gas pressure reduction stations, with the potential for work to start on six further sites in spring 2008. Initial investment for the first eight sites would be between £50 and £60 million, and the first two projects could potentially be at Beckton near the proposed Olympic complex and at Fulham. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2008 and the sites will be producing renewable power in early 2009. All eight sites, once up and running, could provide National Grid with all its internal electricity needs. National Grid Chief Executive, Steve Holliday, said, "It's clear that for society to tackle climate change—and for us as a company to reduce our carbon footprint—we need to start thinking of new ways to meet our energy needs.

    "As a company, we have already reduced our emissions by 35%, beating the Kyoto 2012 target of 12.5% emissions reduction for the UK and we are on target to reduce emissions from our operations and offices across the company by 60% well before 2050. Today's agreement with 2OC is a great step forward and will help us meet all our internal energy needs from renewable sources by 2010".

  Natural gas is driven through the pipe network under pressure, which must be reduced by a pressure reduction station before being safely delivered to homes and businesses. By installing a turbine generation system at some of these stations, the energy created by reducing the pressure can be harnessed and used to generate renewable electricity.

  Andrew Mercer, Chief Executive of 2OC said, "With this agreement we hope to make a real difference to the way the world thinks about exploiting the many sources of clean, renewable energy that exist today. We are excited about working with National Grid to enable them to meet their internal energy needs from renewable sources and reduce their carbon footprint.

  Showing leadership in the fight against climate change and being passionate about finding new sources of clean energy are core values of 2OC".

  It is expected that each of the pilot installations will generate between 5 and 13MW of electricity and whilst the actual generation capacity will depend on the characteristics of the site, a feasibility study has indicated that renewable energy could be generated at around 200 of National Grid's sites.

  John Sauven, Director of Greenpeace UK said, "If we are to solve the problem of climate change we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in the hunt for solutions. The work done by 20C in developing geo-pressure shows the potential for finding clean, renewable sources of energy and we're delighted with National Grid's commitment to this project. Greenpeace believes that this renewable resource can become an important part of a new energy system that will help tackle the problems of climate change and energy security".

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