Global Status of CCS report warns ‘more to be done’

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

THE Global CCS Institute says that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is vital to meeting the Paris climate change targets, but while significant advances have been made in the past year, there is a long way to go.

The Global Status of CCS: 2017 report was launched at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. In the report’s introduction, Brad Page, CEO of the Institute, said that 2017 has been “particularly momentous” for CCS but there is “much, much more to be done”. The report calls for tailored policy support from governments for CCS, a multi-industry focus, and increased public awareness of the importance of CCS.

Thanks to technology developments and ‘learning-by-doing’, CCS is now cheaper on a like-for-like basis than intermittent renewables. While there has been a lot of focus on decarbonising power generation, the report points out that CCS is the only technology that can decarbonise industries such as cement and fertiliser production, which produce CO2 as part of the production process and for which renewable power is not an option. CCS is now being deployed or is planned for industries as varied as iron and steel production (for example the 800,000 t/y Al Reyadah facility in Abu Dhabi), oil refining, chemical production, synthetic natural gas production, biofuel production and hydrogen production.

Currently, CCS facilities are capturing 37m t/y of CO2, the equivalent of removing 8m cars from the roads, and to date, more than 220m t of CO2 has been permanently stored underground.

There are now 17 large-scale (capturing more than 400,000 t/y of CO2) CCS facilities operating around the world, 12 of which are in North America. Fifteen smaller-scale facilities, capturing 50,000-400,000 t/y of CO2 are also in operation. The past 12 months saw the opening of two new large-scale CCS facilities, Petra Nova and Illinois Industrial. The Petra Nova plant is the world’s largest post-combustion power plant CCS scheme, capturing 1.4m t/y of CO2 from unit 8 of the WA Parish power plant near Houston, Texas. Illinois Industrial, meanwhile, is capturing 1m t/y of CO2 from a bioethanol facility, and is the first large-scale CCS application on a bioethanol plant.

Four more large-scale facilities are expected in the coming year, including the Gorgon CO2 injection project in Western Australia, and in Redwater, Canada. In China, Yangchang CCS is currently under construction, and will be the first large-scale CCS facility in Asia. It will capture 400,000 t/y of CO2 from coal gasification.

Two further projects entered advanced development in 2017. In the Norwegian full-chain CCS scheme, which will capture industrial emissions for storage under the North Sea, detailed studies have begun at three sites – Klemetsrud waste-to-energy plant, Norcem cement plant in Brevik, and at Yara’s Porsgrunn ammonia plant. The Louisiana Lake Charles methanol facility will produce syngas from petroleum coke.

As ever, finding ways to make CCS profitable is vital to its success. Many of the US facilities are linked to enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Petra Nova, for example, is expected to pay for itself within ten years.

New technologies are being tested too. Construction is almost complete on the NET Power 50 MW gas-fired power plant that will use NET Power’s proprietary Allam Cycle technology, in which the CO2 is used as a working fluid in the power plant. Thus pure, storage-ready CO2 is inherently captured without the need for dedicated equipment, making it cheaper and simpler. FuelCell Energy and ExxonMobil are testing a novel system which uses waste flue gases in fuel cells to produce electricity and hydrogen.

The progress on operating and planned CCS plants is encouraging, but the report also points out that if the world is to meet the Paris climate change targets of keeping global warming to below 2oC, 2,500 large-scale facilities will be needed.

Many experts contributed to the report. Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment, Patrick Suckling reminded readers that without CCS, the cost of meeting global climate targets will double, according to UN body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and called for a “renewed push” to provide governments with the confidence to develop policies to incentivise emissions reduction.

“Garbage brought disease to our streets. We learned to dispose of it. Sewage poisoned our waters. We learned to treat it. CO2 threatens to change our climate. Hence, we must learn how to capture and bury it,” wrote Colombia University professor and climate expert, Wallace Smith Broecker, who originally coined the term “global warming” in 1975.

Luke Warren, chief executive of the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) welcomed the news that there are now 17 large-scale CCS projects in operation.

“However, the Global CCS Institute highlights the need to step up efforts on CCS if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said. “We are pleased that the UK government recently published the Clean Growth Strategy, in which it re-affirmed its commitment to delivering CCS and becoming a global leader in this vital technology. The CCS industry looks forward to working with the UK government on the investment models that will enable widespread deployment of CCS.”

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Senior reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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