About Science for Clean Energy

Facts and Figures

Acronym: S4CE


Start date: September 1st, 2017


Duration: 36 months


End date: August 31st, 2020


Project coordinator: Prof. Alberto Striolo, UCL


Consortium: 23 partners – world-leading academics, research laboratories, SMEs and large industries from 10 countries


Total funding: € 9,785,730.00


Project Summary

What is the project about?
The Horizon 2020 project S4CE aims to develop, test and implement technologies needed for successfully detecting, quantifying and mitigating the risks connected with geo-energy operations in the sub-surface.
The operations considered by this consortium include geothermal energy, enhanced gas recovery, carbon sequestration, and unconventional operations.

Uniquely, the S4CE consortium benefits from several field sites, at different stages of their lifetimes. The availability of these sites, and the collaboration among the partners offer exceptional educational opportunities for training the next generation of scientists and engineers who will operate effectively and responsibly in the sub-surface energy sector.

Why is the project important?
Engineering sub-surface geo-energy operations is essential for our society. Operations such as carbon sequestration and geothermal energy can be seen as necessary to reduce the carbon footprint of our expanding society, while the production of hydrocarbons is needed to secure our standards of living until renewable energy sources are available in sufficient amount.

Sub-surface geo-energy operations, however, carry intrinsic environmental risks. Quantifying the possible risks, identifying best practice procedures, implementing mitigation strategies and, when necessary, remediation methods is required for the responsible implementation of such operations.

What is the foreseen impact of the project?
  • S4CE seeks to develop new technologies to detect gas leaks, new tracers to follow fluid migration in the sub-surface and to identify the source of the sub-surface fluids, as well as new sensors for assessing the integrity of cements used in sub-surface geo-energy operations.
  • S4CE seeks to implement innovative technologies within the field sites to monitor, manage and mitigate the risks (e.g., induced micro-sismicity).
  • S4CE will develop software and models to predict, control and ultimately reduce the environmental risks associated with the sub-surface geo-energy operations considered by the consortium partners.
  • S4CE will secure a connection with North American institutions and consortia to exchange innovative technologies, know how, and best practice recommendations.
  • Ultimately, S4CE seeks to provide a scientific dataset for informing policymakers and the wide public. This will be secured via a series of outreach events that include public presentations, presentations at scientific meetings and conferences, publication of journal articles and of dissemination material, as well as best-practice recommendations.
Objectives and approach

S4CE has short-term quantifiable objectives:

  • Synergistic experiments and models are being developed and applied to overcome current knowledge gaps in the detection of failure of concrete casings, the quantification, prediction and eventual control of fluid transport pathways in sub-surface rock formations and cement-based materials, in the mechanisms of CO2 fixation, and in the rate and extent of fluid-rock-microbe interactions in subsurface systems.
  • Cutting-edge instruments are being deployed to detect stray gases, differentiate bio-genic from thermo-genic methane, fingerprint fracturing fluids and identify hydrocarbons, CO2 and water fluxes in the sub-surface.
  • Software is being created to integrate continuous data gathering within both a Life Cycle Assessment and a Multi-Risk framework to estimate the lifetime environmental impacts of each sub-surface operations.

S4CE built itself on existing international collaborations to integrate its innovative technologies:

  • Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO): The DCO, funded in 2009, has generated one-of-a-kind instruments (e.g., a combination of gas-source mass spectrometers and multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma-source mass spectrometer) able to differentiate between biogenic and thermogenic methane, and it has developed innovative instrumentation for extracting micro-organisms from deep in the sub-surface (the PUSH50).
  • CCS Pilot Project in Canada: S4CE will partner with a pilot project for CO2 injection, led by Husky Oil Operations Ltd. The project started in 2009, and the goal was the assessment of using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in heavy oil reservoirs in the Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • Utica Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratories (USEEL)Prof. David Cole is the scientific director of the Utica Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory (USEEL) led by Ohio State University. USEEL has the objective of ‘providing a long-term field site to develop and validate new knowledge and technology to improve recovery efficiency and minimise environmental implications of unconventional resource development’. USEEL will provide the opportunity of sharing best practice procedures, testing similar technologies on US and EU sites, and comparing the results.
  • Energy and Geoscience Institute (EGI): EGI is the world’s largest University-based global consortium for industry cost-shared upstream research. EGI has produced over 800 reports and geoscience research solutions. Prof. Raymond Levey is EGI’s director. Technical competences of EGI include, but are not limited to shale rock characterization, interpretation of seismic data, geomechanics, petroleum engineering, and fluid inclusions.

Project Description

S4CE is a multi-disciplinary consortium of world-leading academics, research laboratories, SMEs and large industries. The project includes fundamental studies of fluid transport and reactivity, development of new instruments and methods for the detection and quantification of emissions, micro-seismic events, and testing of cement casings. It will conduct both lab- and field-testing of new technologies, and it will deploy successful detection and quantification technologies in subsurface sites for continuous monitoring of the risks connected with sub-surface geo-energy operations.

S4CE leverages approximately 500M EUR in existing investments on 3 scientific field sites: the CarbFix site in Iceland, one geothermal operation in Cornwall, UK, and a water-gas well in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

In 2019, S4Ce partnered with 3 additional field sites: Mont Terri in Switzerland, giving S4CE access to a access to a clay formation, a facility of hydrocarbons in Trecate, Italy and  geothermal field in Nesjavellir, Iceland.  

S4CE will utilize monitoring data acquired during the project in these field sites to

  • quantify the environmental impact of sub-surface geo-energy applications;
  • demonstrate new technologies and models;
  • quantify the likelihood of environmental risks ranging from fugitive emissions, water contamination, induced micro-seismicity, and local impacts.

Such quantifications will enable S4CE to set up a probabilistic methodology to assess and mitigate both the short and the long term environmental risks connected to the exploration and exploitation of sub-surface geo-energy.

S4CE will maintain a transparent dialogue with all stakeholders, including the public at large, the next generation of scientists, academics and industrial operators, including training of young post-graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, and it will therefore have as primary impact the assistance to policy making.

Left: summary of sub-surface geo-energy field sites accessible to S4CE, cross-cutting environmental risks considered, the S4CE toolbox, and the extensive activities for educating, training and public engagement. International cooperation
and exploitation will strengthen links to secure wide success of the S4CE research and outreach activities.
Right: distribution of S4CE field sites and partners across Europe