SCOTTISH scientists have published proof that carbon capture technology could work safely for up to 10,000 years.

In what could be a game-changing moment for the young industry, the research featuring Aberdeen and Edinburgh University staff showed that storing liquefied carbon dioxide emissions deep underground in microscopic pores in rocks works safely for millennia.

The possibilities for carbon capture and storage technology, in which Scotland is leading the world, will be massively boosted by the study – published in Nature Communications.

Carbon dioxide is one of the major greenhouse gases – the main cause of climate change – and is released to the atmosphere from industry, electricity generation, heating and transport.

Scientists agree that capturing these emissions and ensuring that carbon dioxide can be safely trapped underground is crucial for the successful protection of the atmosphere.

By compiling a worldwide database using information from naturally occurring gas accumulations and from industry, the Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage team have boosted confidence in its potential widespread use. The study included details obtained from engineered gas storage, decades of borehole injection, and laboratory experiments.

Computer simulations were used to combine all these factors and model the storage of carbon dioxide for 10,000 years into the future.

The team stated: “Previous research in this area had not fully accounted for the natural trapping of microscopic bubbles of carbon dioxide in rock, nor the dissolving of carbon dioxide into salty water present in the rock.”

The United Nations’ Paris Agreement has committed the world to limiting climate warming to well below 2C compared with pre-industrial levels.

Dr Juan Alcalde, who co-led the research at Aberdeen University, said: “The security of carbon dioxide storage is an understandable concern for people, communities and governments.

“Our work shows that the storage of carbon dioxide necessary to help address climate change can be secure for many thousands of years.”

Dr Stephanie Flude who co-led the work at Edinburgh University, added: “We selected the model inputs to be conservative but realistic.

“Importantly, our computer simulations, based on good-regulation practices, such as those used currently in the North Sea, retained more than 90% of the injected carbon dioxide after 10,000 years in 95% of the cases. The most probable outcome being at least 98% retention.”