Capture ready: global carbon capture and storage

Energy Source & Distribution looks at the latest developments in global carbon capture and storage.

In the dawn hours of the closing day of the COP16 conference in Cancun, Mexico, carbon capture and storage (CCS) took on new global significance.

The UN Convention on Climate Change accepted CCS as an offsetting activity under the clean development mechanism (CDM) in December 2010. The mechanism calls for rules around CCS projects to be finalised at the next climate talks in December 2011 and for issues such as permanence, boundaries and safety to be addressed and resolved.

According to Australia’s Global CCS Institute, the decision marks a significant recognition of the role the technology can play in reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“CCS has a critical role to play – right along with other measures such as energy efficiency and renewable – in reducing the world’s emissions to the required level by 2050,” Global CCS Institute (GCCS) CEO, Nick Otter said.

“The UN confirms this with its decision, which now clears the way for developing countries to finance CCS projects,” Mr Otter said.

“This decision will ultimately see a framework established that could provide for the institutional arrangements of CCS under any future UNFCCC mechanism and/or adopted within national government policy settings.”

Some 3400 CCS projects need to be up and running by 2050, many of them in the developing world. Until now, the vast majority of projects have been in Europe, North America and Australia.

“This UNFCCC decision now paves the way for national governments to put in place adequate measurement, monitoring and verification regimes to give CCS projects a social license to operate and ensures that the world can meet its abatement targets,” GCCS Institute senior vice president for Europe, Bob Pegler said.

Recent efforts by the GCCS Institute, in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) to establish a definition for carbon capture and storage ready (CCSR) highlights increasing recognition of its potential to facilitate CO2 mitigation in the future.

Without carbon capture and storage, the cost associated with cutting CO2 to desired levels by 2050 are likely to be 70 per cent higher, Shell CCS and sour gas manager, Martin Jagger told Australia’s Public Affairs Channel in early December. Mr Jagger was in Australia to present a technical assessment and comparison of emerging global CCS regulation at the National CCS Conference in Melbourne during National CCS Week. The conference saw a number of high-profile speakers, including Carbon Capture and Storage Association chair, Lord Oxburgh, ANU Climate Change Institute executive director, Will Steffen and IEA greenhouse gas R&D programme general manager, John Gale.

CO2CRC chief executive and CCS conference committee chair, Dr Peter Cook presented the need for Australian CCS capture trials to be linked to storage projects.

“The biggest thing which has been done in terms of the amount of the amount of CO2 is actually the C02CRC Otway project. There we have injected 62,000 tonnes of CO2,” Dr Cook explained to Energy Source & Distribution.

“So that’s significant, that’s our only storage project, by far and away the largest project at the present time in terms of CO2. The next largest in terms of capture is probably Hazelwood, in terms of tonnes of CO2. There’s a number of smaller-scale but nonetheless important capture projects. None of those capture projects are linked to a storage project at the present time. That’s the link we have got to have,” he said.

“Another project I think is making good progress is the Callide project, which is being done by CS Energy and they’re progressing pretty well, I think, with their retrofit of an oxy-fuel system.”

While CCS has an important role to play in reducing carbon, the general sentiment from conference speakers and attendees was that CCS was not the only answer, Dr Cook said.

“If you look at what the International Energy Agency was saying at the conference, they are saying it’s 19 per cent of the answer globally,” he said.

“It’s a matter of some countries will do it, some countries won’t, it depends on the nature of their economies, the nature of their geologies and so on. As for the cost, well, it was recognised that it was relatively high, but in that respect it was no different from any of the options. And it’s a matter, then, of making a balance.”

Researching the chain of CCS technologies is CSIRO advanced coal technology director, Dr John Carras.

The CSIRO’s broad range of research includes coal that produces less CO2 per unit of electricity, coal gasification – a higher efficiency process then conventional coal combustion-, the use of coal in diesel engines as well as carbon fuel cells, the most efficient way to produce coal. Direct carbon fuel cell can theoretically operate at close to a 100 per cent efficiency, although in practice it will be more likely to reach 70 per cent, still a dramatic improvement.

“Our focus is on increasing the efficiency of coal use,” Dr Carras told Energy Source & Distribution.

“Thinking in terms of well-developed technologies, the gasification technology is the most well-developed of these newer technologies we are talking about. The next would be, but at an early stage, the diesel engine and then in an even earlier stage of its development is the work around the direct carbon fuel cell,” he said.

A number of methods exist for carbon capture – conventional combustion for existing power stations, oxy-firing – burning coal with an increased oxygen environment – and gasifying coal, which CSIRO’s research is focused on. The CSIRO has pilot CCS plants with Tarong Energy, Delta Electricity, Loy Yang Power and China Huaneng. While the pilot plants are small scale, they represent a first step in learning how to run a plant that captures CO2 while at the same time making electricity. CSIRO is placing much of its efforts into post-combustion as it captures CO2 from existing coal-fired power stations.

“That’s true in Australia, but when you think about China and India, where they are developing coal-fired power stations at a huge rate, a very rapid rate, then ultimately the CO2 from those power stations will have to be captured and stored if we are to tackle the greenhouse issue,” Dr Carras said.

The CSIRO is also looking at different solvents to increase the efficiency and reduce the penalty of post-combustion capture, including amines and chilled ammonia.

A company with a significant number of worldwide CCS projects is Alstom Power, with more than a dozen capture trials. CO2 market manager and international carbon capture specialist, Louis Sonnois presented Alstom’s CCS roadmap at the Melbourne CCS conference and discussed the key lessons learnt from their trials. Mr Sonnois confirmed that Alstom would have a large-scale commercial CCS offering for coal and gas generators as part of its energy generation portfolio by 2015. Under the right conditions, the cost of the power generated with CCS will be on parity with wind power, which will have significant ramifications for Australia’s coal and gas industries, Mr Sonnois said.

“This is a clear target our management has committed to reach. We really are on the good path for each of our technologies to reach this 2015 commercialisation date. We are working on six large-scale pilot demonstration projects,” Mr Sonnois told Energy Source & Distribution.

“We will start in 2013/2014 to enable use to be able to make an offer in 2015. This is true for the post-combustion technology and also the other type of technology we are developing called oxy-combustion, a different process,” he said.

“In an emerging market, at some point you need to make bets, particularly in your technology choices. One of the key things we have really looked at when we started to develop CO2 capture technology (was), ‘What are the ones that are most promising? Where to put my R&D money in order to offer a good solution?’. We had to assess the different families of technologies and we have chosen post-combustion and oxy-combustion technologies because they are the most promising in terms of economics and also because they are adaptable to the existing installed base and to the power plants that we are building today.”

Before joining Alstom, Mr Sonnois was a strategy consultant working on market assessment, business development opportunity and strategy definition for large European corporations, with a strong focus on the energy and environmental markets, which has enabled him to build strong expertise in the power generation sector. Mr Sonnois believes there isn’t a silver bullet method available to tackling CO2 constraint.

“We need to apply all the technologies. We need to use the carbonised way of making electricity, renewables, nuclear, we have to increase the efficiency of the fossil fuel and gas and we will have to capture the CO2 from coal and gas. So we do not see those technologies competing by themselves,” he said.

“What is sometimes different is that they are treated in different regulation and incentive scheme, but our point of view, in order to achieve ambitious CO2 reduction target, we need to apply all of this in the most economically efficient option. We will not have one option which will tackle the issue at once.”

Co2CRC’s Dr Cook said that Alstom’s 2015 time-scale was a positive step forward, especially with many pessimistic timelines for CCS commercialisation being suggested.

“You do have people (that are pessimistic), but nobody was saying that at the (Melbourne) conference because they know that it is actually happening in a number of areas. The thing that’s not happening is to get a large-scale power station with full capture and separation of CO2, full transport and full storage (In Australia). You’ve got parts of that equation there, but they have not been put together for power stations. They have been put together for gas processing plants and they’ve been put together for gasificiation processes. The problem at the moment is the lack of incentive to do it, whether that incentive is a stick or a carrot,” Dr Cook said.

Dr Cook is hopeful that a decision will be made in the first half of 2011 regarding an Education Infrastructure Fund of $200 million, linked to the Flagships program, for CCS research and development which will decrease technical and financial risk.

“That will be a very important step forward. I think people are a little concerned it is taking quite a long time and there’s probably various reasons for this, but I think everyone’s at the stage where they would like to see things moving on rather faster at the present time,” he said.

Dr Carras echoed Dr Cook’s comments that it was good to hear Alstom’s deadlines for CCS.

“I think it was true, when speaking about CCS, that there was great optimism… that this would all be fairly quickly done. But it is complicated and it is difficult and it is different, and what we are trying to do here is accelerate everything,” Dr Carras said.

“People have put out various timelines and I think they are important because they give us something to think about, but it really takes as long as it takes… there’s a technical pace that you need to achieve and you need to show that technology at different stages is fit-for-purpose and does the job. So its encouraging to hear the people at the commercial deployment end optimistic,” he said.


1. International carbon capture projects

Advanced Amines

Owner: PGE Elektrownia, Poland

Process: Pulverised coal (PC) boiler combusting high-sulphur, lignite coal

Capture technology: Advanced amine-based post-combustion

CO2 capture capacity: 100,000 tonnes

Commissioning: 2013

Elektrownia’s Belchatow power station is Europe’s largest CO2 polluter, producing over 30MT CO2/ Yr. The smaller scale 250 MW demo retro-fit of unit 12 will capture approximately 100,000 tonnes. It will be followed by the second phase of a new 858 MW CCS included power station in 2015. The 858 MW station is already under construction and is expected to capture 1.8 MT CO2/Yr.

“Amines have been used in the oil and gas industry for 30 years to capture CO2 from the natural gas,” Alstom CO2 market manager, Louis Sonnois said.

“Now the challenge is to adapt these molecules for the power generation sector and this is typically what the CSIRO is doing. We are developing this technology as well… called advanced amines,” he said.

Alstom has a joint partnership with amine supplier Dow Chemical Company to adapt amines to become more efficient for the power generation sector.

2. Chilled ammonia

Owner: Transalta, Canada

Process: Pulverised Coal boiler combusting low-sulphur, sub-bituminous coal

Capture technology: Chilled ammonia post-combustion

CO2 capture capacity: One million metric tonnes per year

Commissioning: 2015

Chilled ammonia will be installed at Canada’s ‘Pioneer Project’, a power plant currently in construction by TransAlta that will capture the equivalent of 1.5 million tonne of CO2 per year using Alstom’s chilled ammonia technology. The Global CCS Institute awarded $5 million to share knowledge around the world from the project in November 2010.

Chilled ammonia captures CO2 with a solvent comprised of ammonium carbonate, a relatively new technology compared to the amines.

“Project Pioneer is planned to be among the world’s largest CCS projects,” Global CCS Institute CEO, Nick Otter said.

“As such, any knowledge emerging from the early development and implementation of this project will help accelerate the deployment of other similar efforts worldwide.”

The chilled ammonia process is important for natural gas-fired combined cycle power stations. The technology is currently being tested at the European CO2 Technology Centre in Mongstad, Norway, for flue gases from natural gas CHP plant and a catalytic cracker (refinery).

3. Oxy-combustion

Owner: Total, France

Process: Natural gas boiler

Capture technology: Oxy-Combustion

CO2 capture capacity: 60,000 metric tonnes per year

Commissioning: Mid 2009

Alstom’s LACQ project in France demonstrates the complete chain of carbon capture and storage technologies. The project was inaugurated January 11, 2010, and will be Europe’s first end-to-end carbon capture, transportation and storage demonstration facility.

Compressed CO2 is currently being transported and injected into depleted gas fields, 30 km from the plant. It’s scope includes a retrofit of 30 MWth conventional boiler for oxy-combustion.


Queensland post-combustion technology trial

Queensland’s Tarong power station captured carbon dioxide (CO2) for the first time in December 2010 using post-combustion capture (PCC) technology.

The pilot plant is designed to capture approximately 1000 tonnes of CO2 per annum. It will evaluate the effectiveness of CO2 capture using amine-based solvents and inform the development of efficient and economical PCC technology at commercial scale.

The $5 million PCC demonstration project is a partnership between CSIRO and Tarong Energy Corporation Limited and was officially launched by Queensland’s Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Stephen Robertson MP.

CSIRO advanced coal technology director, Dr John Carras said PCC technology can help strike a balance between the increasing global demand for energy and the need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

“Australia is fortunate enough to have access to affordable and reliable electricity, and that security of supply has been underpinned by coal,” Dr Carras said.

“However, greenhouse gas emissions arising from the use of coal need to be mitigated. The pathway to achieving this objective is through large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies,” he said.

“Collaborating with industry partners like Tarong Energy allows CSIRO to undertake rigorous technology trials, build experience and accelerate the adoption of PCC to reduce emissions from the energy sector in Australia and overseas.”

PCC uses a liquid solvent to capture CO2 from power station flue gases and has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations by more than 80 per cent.

Tarong Energy chair, Graham Carpenter said the corporation is proud to be involved in hosting Queensland’s first PCC plant.

“The opening of the plant marks a significant milestone as it is the first time in the Tarong power station’s 26-year history that carbon has been successfully captured on-site,” Mr Carpenter said.

“The corporation is acutely aware of its environmental responsibilities and we have introduced a number of initiatives to reduce our impact on the environment over the past few years.

“If the trial is successful and carbon storage sites are identified, this PCC technology has the potential to lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from not only Tarong power station, but also from other coal-fired generators throughout Queensland and Australia.

“Working with CSIRO – Australia’s leading scientific research agency – has provided the team at Tarong power station with a fantastic opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology.”

The project received funding from the Federal Government as part of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate program, which includes two other PCC pilot plants operating in Victoria and China.


Emissions standards proposed for new power stations

The Federal Government invited submissions from stakeholders on its policy to require all new power stations to meet best practice emissions standards and be CCS ready.

The discussion paper A Cleaner Future for Power Stations, released November 2010, outlines a range of new requirements. These include all new coal-fired power stations to meet an emission standard by 2011 with reference to best practice coal-fired generation technology; only granting approval to new coal-fired generators which meet the emissions standard and are capable of retrofitting CCS technologies; requiring all new coal-fired generators to retrofit CCS technologies within an appropriate time after they become commercially available; and extending the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program to cover all existing generators.

It is intended that the Government’s national emission standards could replace the different approaches taken by individual states and territories.

Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson AM MP, said that the discussion paper is an important part of the Government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector on a national basis. Minister Ferguson released a number of reports to guide Australia’s transition to a low emissions economy during last year’s National CCS Week in November.

“The National Carbon Mapping and Infrastructure Plan – Australia by the Carbon Storage Taskforce shows Australia has the potential to reduce its future greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon from coal-fired power generation. It recommends starting exploration now for suitable storage sites to enable carbon capture and storage to be a viable option from 2020,” Minister Ferguson said.

“The National Low Emissions Coal Strategy and an update paper by the National Low Emissions Coal Council is designed to ensure the coal sector makes a substantial contribution to greenhouse gas abatement while enhancing the contribution that coal makes to Australia’s energy security and economic well-being.

“These reports will all inform the Energy White Paper process and provide a reference point to allow policymakers and industry to identify and address key issues.

“To further drive the development of CCS technologies I have also announced the establishment of the National CCS Council that will have a key role to play in the development of the Cleaner Future for Power Stations definition of ‘CCS ready’.

“The role of CCS is increasingly important as we confront the dual challenges of maintaining energy security and transitioning to a low emissions future.”


Guidelines for CSS community engagement

Building constructive relationships with host communities is crucial for the successful deployment of CCS, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The report, CCS and Community Engagement: Guidelines for Community Engagement in Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport and Storage Projects, outlines how project developers and operators can effectively engage local communities near a potential CCS site. The guidelines, which had input from over 90 contributors, are meant to strengthen the decision-making process so that community members, developers, and regulators are all represented during project planning and development and throughout a plant’s lifecycle.

“Local opposition stands as one of the biggest potential barriers to the successful implementation of CCS projects,” WRI president, Jonathan Lash said.

“In order for countries to move ahead with large-scale deployment of CCS around the world, greater transparency and community engagement need to be made a priority throughout the process.”

There are currently a few small-scale industrial operations capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions around the world, but the technology has not yet been scaled to cut emissions in larger coal-fired power plants. Further testing of demonstration projects will be necessary to determine whether or not CCS is a viable solution to the climate change problem.

The report presents a series of case studies, including examples of successful and unsuccessful community engagement strategies including Nirranda, Victoria and four places in the US – Wallula, Washington; Matoon, Illinois; Jamestown, New York; and Carson, California. The case studies confirm that the decisions on individual demonstration projects ultimately hinge on site-specific factors, including the needs of the local community.

In Matoon, Illinois, for example, trust diminished when the US Department of Energy made changes to the original FutureGen project seven years after the initial announcement. According to the case study, the revised project, renamed FutureGen 2.0, would retrofit an existing power plant with CCS technology elsewhere in the state in Merodisia rather than building a state-of-the-art plant and research facility in Matoon.

“While many communities across the globe have rejected CCS projects, our community of more than 50,000 people was willing to stake our future on the emerging science of CCS,” Coles Together president, Angela Griffin said in a letter published in the Guidelines.

“That all changed when FutureGen 2.0 was announced. The new plan enormously diminished the role our federal partners envisioned for the community,” Ms Griffin said.

“It is evident that gaining the trust of the community through two-way information exchanges is a key ingredient to moving CCS projects forward,” she said.

Recommendations in the report will be road-tested in real-life CCS demonstration projects, and the outcomes integrated into a more robust set of globally-applicable best practices for CCS projects. The report follows WRI’s Guidelines for Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport and Storage, a set of technical guidelines published in 2008 for how to responsibly proceed with safe CCS projects.


Shell submits application for Canadian CSS project

Shell Canada submitted a regulatory application for its Quest CCS project located in central Alberta in November 2010. Quest is a fully integrated CCS project, meaning it will capture, transport (pipeline) and store CO2.

Shell submitted the application on behalf of the Athabasca Oil Sands project, a joint venture among Shell Canada Energy (60 per cent) Chevron Canada Limited (20 per cent) and Marathon Oil Canada Corporation (20 per cent).

“Today’s submission demonstrates the progress that has been made to advance Quest as we work towards the first application of CCS technology in the oil sands,” Shell executive vice president of heavy oil, John Abbott said in November 2010.

“Shell is pleased to have reached this stage of the project that will allow for a thorough review of all aspects of the project by regulatory agencies and provides a further opportunity for public review and comment.”

The regulatory submission includes applications for each component of the project, including the capture, transport and storage of CO2.

The Quest project would capture more than one million tonnes of CO2 per year from the Shell Scotford upgrader, located about 40 km north east of Edmonton. The CO2 would be transported by an 84 km pipeline to injection wells north of Shell Scotford and permanently stored more than two kilometres underground beneath several layers of impermeable rock.

A final investment decision on the proposed Quest project would not be taken until the regulatory process is complete.

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