Carbon Capture & Storage: Big companies-big plans-big changes
The Carbon Capture & Storage (CC&S) technology provides a critical insight for the post-oil era and is about to set up another energy environment over the coming years.
In this article the main projects as envisaged and implemented by European companies are going to be presented, developments from the States, as well as, recent news from Greece that relay plans for cc& s in the country. It is important to highlight that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), estimates this technology could be used to process between 20% and 40% of world Co2 emissions by the year 2050.
The Swedish corporation is one of the major European energy producers to invest considerably in establishing CC&S technology. Mrs. Maria Parent, Manager of the Group Media Relations, states that ‘We are currently building the world's first CCS pilot plant using the oxyfuel technique in Schwarze Pumpe, 2 hours south of Berlin in Germany. It will have a capacity of 30 MW and we plan to open it in September 2008. Next step is to open a full scale demonstration plant to test scale and economy’
When asked around the timetable of the CC&S investments, the company is confident that ‘The ambition is to have CCS at some of our plants in 2020 and in all plants in 2050. We also have a set a goal to reduce our own emissions by 50% until 2030 (compared to 1990 levels)’. As it can be understood the use of this technology has passed the experimental level and it becomes a strategic goal in the long-term business plans of the company. Further it must be added that additional plans include ‘Investigations regarding the conversion of one existing CHP block at Nordjyllandsvaerket (North Jutland plant in Denmark) to a CCS demonstration plant. The aim is to take it into operation late 2013
- Should the necessary conditions can be met-. This one would be using the post combustion process’ Also THE writer was informed that there are several plans of operating demo plants in the short-term using oxy fuel.
The German energy conglomerate has also rushed into the CC&S market by working into some significant projects on Pre-Combustion and Post-Combustion CCS Technology.
André Bauguitte, the Press Officer of RWE power, informs around the ‘The lighthouse -project in Germany namely the IGCC Project is to build and operate a 450 MW Demo Power Station to Capture up to 2.6 mt C02 per year, to transport it and to storage it in Saline Formation on shore in Germany’ Other plans include ‘The Post- combustion technique we develop is based on amine- and ammonia scrubbing processes. Both technologies will be tested in pilot facilities for lignite in Germany, for hard coal in UK and for hard coal on the basis of chilled ammonia in US as a funding partner of the AEP/Alstom Mountaineer project’
An interesting aspect of the use of this technology, on a commercial level, is the timetable expected for it, entering the market. RWE is certain that ‘Beyond 2020 the CCS will be commercial available’ When asked about the criteria of its commercial availability, information was relayed that the decision will be based ‘on the profitability in comparison to other Co2 mitigation measures. The most important figure will be the price for the Co2 allowance per ton Co2’
The French energy multinational has also entered the CC&S market dynamically by exploring its chances with a high technology facility in the Lacq region of Central France. Burkhard Reuss, Manager in the Corporate Communications & the International Press Department says that one of the main drive is ‘The uniqueness in a world-scale level of this particular pilot project’ Moreover it was communicated to the writer that most probably the conclusions regarding the technical operation of the facility, will become the basis for the operation of other similar projects by Total.
Further, the company was kindly enough to provide a special in house report, undersigned by its Senior Vice President, Jean-Michel Gires.
In particular around the Lacq project the report states that ‘On 8 February 2007 Total announced the launch of a Co2 capture and storage pilot project in the Lacq basin in southwest France. This is a unique combination of oxycombustion technology and onshore storage’. An important point in the report is the absence of a regulatory-governmental framework specifically covering underground storage of Co2 for the purpose of reducing the greenhouse effect. Total informs that ‘The capture and transport phases of the project will be carried out in accordance with the existing regulatory framework covering Environmental Protection at Industrial Sites and Pipeline Transport of Mineral Resources’ The company’s opinion is that such regulation might be introduced by the French & EU authorities in the near future.
In relation to the unique characteristics of the Lacq projects that distinguish it on a global scale, Total adds ‘This is the first time that a whole CCS chain starting with oxycombustion has been tested on such a scale. The experiment will enable Total to verify a number of hypotheses concerning cost reduction and improved efficiency at the capture stage’. The actual phrase being used by Total’s Administration is that ‘The Lacq site has become a technological showcase’.
Finally concerning the critical point of the timetable, the corporation assures around the commencement of the Co2 injection by late 2008 and the planned halt in hydrocarbon production at Lacq, scheduled for 2013.
The British multinational entered the CC&S market in the In Salah field in Algeria which has been capturing and storing around 1m tones of Co2 each year and runs for the past three years. According to the BP Publication -Frontiers Magazine, Issue 09-, the Salah project " Uses the re-injection method, that gives a net reduction of almost 1 million tons, according to the site's mechanical engineer Elroy Ham; and an additional 17 million tons over the projects lifetime'
Robert Wine, the Press Officer of the London Offices adds around the new plans that include ‘The team–up between BP's Alternative Energy with Rio Tinto to form a joint venture of Hydrogen Energy’. More specifically this cooperation, relates to the new developments which would tie in hydrogen-fired power generation to CCS.
Wine states that ‘These could start with gas, with coal or other hydrocarbon sources’. The company is not yet certain around the profitably issues involved or the governmental assistance that will be delivered in the end for the companies involved. The UK government according to BP ‘Runs a competition for funding, but for a different type of technology - post-combustion capture and storage’
Finally the schedule for developing in full this technology was also discussed and BP’s office is certain that it will back similar projects ‘When the opportunities arise’ even though ‘there have been no commercial scale projects like these so far, and no regulatory frameworks have been put in place. Hence, the economics of these schemes are currently impossible to pin down’
Across the Atlantic (USA)
According to the public relations office of the Duke Energy Corporation, 'The company will be filing with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission plans for a carbon capture study for its 630-megawatt coal gasification power plant planned at Edwardsport Station in southwest Indiana' The Duke Energy President Jim Stanley said that 'This project is technologically important not just for Indiana, but for the nation'. It has to be mentioned that the projected investment of the company for the particular station amounts to $2 billion and completion date estimated at 2012.
The Tenaska Corporation moves on to develop a plant in Sweetwater- Texas that will capture up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide. The company's press service comments that according to David Fiorelli, president and CEO 'An air permit application was filed today with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on the 19th of February'. The cost of the new plant is calculated at around $3 billion and completion likely in 2014.
Another fascinating development is the project in the States by Alstom, We Energies Corp. and EPRI. It is a 1.7-megawatt system that captures Co2 from a portion of coal-fired boiler flue gas at We Energies' Pleasant Prairie Power Plant, a 1,210-megawatt coal-fired generating station in Wisconsin. The Electric Power Research Institute states that ‘This is a critical project in order to test the technology and extensive evaluation of the system's performance will be undertaken so as to move into larger commercial uses”. The power station has begun its operation in early March 2008.
Greece to follow lead
The Greek Institute of Geological Studies (IGME), a public organization financed by the Ministry of Development and through its own research, recently announced the ability of the country to take advantage of the CC&S technology. Northern Greece has subsurface storage depositories of a substantial scale due to the existence of depleted oil reservoirs. More specifically the Prinos reservoir nearby the city of Kavala is about to cease operation and provides an ample space for these kind of projects. Georgios Chatzigiannis, the Director of Geothermic research of the Institute and the national representative in the European Co2Net, is certain that the ‘Total amount of storage exceeds 35 million Co2 in the areas where these particular hydrocarbon reserves where examined’.
As a comparison in 2005 the total emissions of Co2 in the country reached 120 million tons.
A more fascinating facet of the whole story is the existence in the country of large salted depots in depth more than one kilometer in various locations. For those Chatzigiannis estimates ‘To have a capacity of storing at least 10 billion tons of Co2’. That doesn’t include large regions of the mainland territory that haven’t been researched yet, as well as, offshore locations especially in the Eastern Aegean Sea.
The drawbacks include the ‘Seismic nature of the country’, that as a consequence increases the R&D costs. Greece is one of the most heavily affected nations by earthquakes in the world, with at least one over 6.5 Richter scale each year.
Another important detail according to the scientist is the ‘Continuous monitoring of the location and movement of the carbon to be stored and the articulate inspection of the location itself. This means that well-organized organizations with sufficient capital can overtake such projects’.
Presently the Institute is the sole organization that conducts research on that issue and participates in an EU project along with Bulgarian, Rumanian, Croatian, Slovenian and Bosnian research centers. The main scope of their collaboration is the estimation of the storage dynamic of Albania & FYROM, two neighboring countries with large depots.
In more details, IGME has participated in the research programs:
-GESTCO (EU funded)
-NASCENT (EU funded)
-GEOCAPACITY (EU funded)
Also it collaborates with the University of Macedonia, the Democritus institute and Chinese research centers. The IGME public relations office states that ‘According to the initial research made by the Gestco program between 2000 and 2004, there is enough capacity for Co2 storage within the Greek territory. That is the reason for the continuation of the research in more detail and the continuation of EU funding in this field’.
Greek managers of domestic energy corporations HAVE commented around the lack of short-term plans of making use of this technology. Nevertheless there were positive statements of an unofficial nature, that they follow closely the work of the Institute and the international developments. In the long-term their aim is to discuss plans in collaboration with the larger European companies.
On overall the exciting future on energy developments, forms a new impetus through the expansion of CCS projects of a commercial nature. A first point to consider is the parallel development by all major companies that will bear fruits from their work between 2015 and 2020. One could conclude around a transformation of the market in a just a generation form now, that will show the resurrection of the coal use as a clean form of energy. Lastly coal producers seem to have a lot to gain over the 21st century and the global energy market will change, thus resulting to major political implications in relation to the oil market, OPEC and the Middle Eastern politics.
On a political level also and in Brussels in particular, the competition between CC&S competitors and the ones investing heavily in renewable energy (Wind, Solar) cannot be excluded. The EU is anxious of securing many alternative routes of importing energy, as well as producing its own through multitude technologies and sources. In case the market experiences a surge of many differing proposals and of competitive nature, then a lobbying conflict becomes a reality. The regulation issue as it was mentioned in the Total’s report is another issue and in any case Europe has reached a stage where it should prioritize its ambitious plans by taking into account all parameters. Not all energy schemes can become profitable in parallel; instead a new round of energy politics could be played in Brussels concerning the latter.