IChemE unveils position paper for CCS

Article by Adam Duckett

Experts gather to discuss the commercialisation challenges of crucial technology

ICHEME’S Energy Centre has launched a green paper that outlines a chemical engineering perspective on CCS and what the discipline can do to accelerate the deployment of this crucial technology.

The report opens by explaining that CCS technology is mature enough for large-scale widespread use. On top of this, most environmental models agree that its application at scale is essential for meeting international climate change targets, and a quicker deployment of the technology will provide a cheaper transition to a low-carbon future. Yet CCS is deployed at just 37 projects worldwide storing only 31m t/y of CO2. This is significantly short of the 10bn t/y needed by 2050 to limit temperatures climbing by 2ºC.

Geoff Maitland, professor of energy engineering at Imperial College London and chair of the IChemE Energy Centre’s Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage Task Group, said: “It has been over two years since the Paris Agreement was signed. We must accelerate action urgently to achieve its targets; looking at those industries that represent the most emissions and using the skills and knowledge of chemical engineers to identify ways to make a real change is a key part of this challenge.”

The report outlines a wide range of contributions that chemical engineers can make to CCS.

While the technology is already commercially applicable, chemical engineers will continue to take the lead on research and development. This should include improving materials and processes to reduce the capital and operational costs of carbon capture; and researching alternative process lineups, flexible operations and control schemes that would allow CCS-enabled power plants to follow the rapid load variations that are characteristic of the power network but unusual for a chemical plant.

Systems thinking

The risk of investing in CCS can be shared through hub and cluster networks where several emitters share infrastructure. The development of these shared networks is a high priority, says the report. Industry can play a key role in specifying its requirements for transportation networks and chemical engineers can apply systems thinking to optimise the design of the whole network. Further downstream, chemical engineers can provide the methodology and models to manage multi-user, multi-source allocations of CO2 to a network of available storage sites.

The discipline can also contribute to the process of developing national plans for the delivery of CCS by advising policymakers on the projected scaleup of CCS-technology and infrastructure required for widespread deployment.

The important contribution that chemical engineers can make through their systems thinking approach is repeated throughout the report.

“A systems approach to the design and optimisation of all these CCS processes lies at the heart of chemical engineers’ core activity,” the report reads. “The challenge is to build new plants and retrofit existing ones to minimise the carbon footprint through a combination of feedstock choice, available energy sources, optimising process efficiency and applying CCS.

“Process design for near-zero greenhouse gas emissions should become as integrated into normal practice as inherent process safety.”

The report reviews the current status of CCS and the challenges and opportunities the technology presents. It points out that CCS will play a crucial role in mitigating emissions from industries that can’t avoid producing CCS, such as cement and steel production. Industrial manufacturing produces 20% of global CO2 emissions and the report calls for chemical engineers in collaboration with industry and government to develop the required policies, regulation, incentives and technologies to decarbonise the sector by 2050.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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