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Cutting costs of CCS – Part 2

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The level of political interest in CCS is inevitably leading to companies developing new and more efficient technologies, and this is made clear in the new TCM commissioned SINTEF report outlined in the first installment of this two part article series.

The report provides an independent assessment of the maturity of 23 next generation CO2 capture technologies, with 12 of these categorised as post combustion technologies, three as oxy combustion technologies and eight as pre combustion technologies. Importantly, the milestone report highlights the ability of these next generation methods to cut current costs by up to 50% and, given that up to 80% of the costs of CCS are related to CO2 capture, this is a real watershed in the global mission to decarbonise the energy sector.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) last year released its Roadmap for CCS, which set out plans to use CCS in 30% of global energy production in order to stay below two degrees of global warming. President Obama and US EPA in early June 2014 announced their draft rule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US, which applies to coal burning power plants and requires a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. The rule allows each state to create their own plans for complying with the new rules and it is likely CCS will have a key role to play in enabling them to cut emissions from their coal fired plants. The next step in translating this political will into viable projects is to progress testing of cost cutting CO2 capture technologies, and TCM provides the crucial infrastructure to do this.

Many of the processes detailed in the SINTEF report have been confined to lab and pilot tests, including those using precipitating solvents, polymeric membranes and low temperature separation. Taking those technologies out of the lab and onto a commercial scale is exactly the reason that our demo facility CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) exists. Given finding ongoing investment can be challenging, testing new technologies prior to construction in a full scale environment, is also useful to demonstrate the commercial realities of CCS to investors to secure ongoing R&D funds.

The SINTEF report showcases the variety of players participating in knowledge sharing in the industry: those involved in the development of new CO2 capture technologies include coal, oil and gas companies (e.g. GE, Shell, Alstom, Clodic, Ereie, Total, Statoil, BP, Chevron), module developers (e.g. AirLiquide, Teknip), powder suppliers and ceramic producers (e.g. AirProducts, Praxair), technology suppliers (e.g. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), universities and research institutes. TCM’s collaboration with the likes of Peterhead, Boundary Dam and Quest, as well as the founding of the Test Centre Network, provides further evidence of this. The purpose of this knowledge sharing is to help bring CCS closer to commercialisation and, by sharing this report, TCM is encouraging a step change in carbon capture technologies.

There is clear potential for CCS to become cost competitive with other forms of low carbon generation and testing of this significant pipeline of CO2 capture technologies is minimising costs and investment risk for the industry. Already by the 2020s the price of CCS is expected to have dropped to £ 100 /MWh.

By focusing on international collaboration and learning from other testing projects, CCS commercialisation is being accelerated. Key players in the industry are collectively creating the momentum for a standardised group of CCS technologies, which will provide investors and policy makers with the security they need. By working together the industry can also address other key issues, including developing skills, the supply chain, storage and CCS infrastructure.

The SINTEF report drives home the importance of information sharing on a global scale to advance the industry and create a legacy of technology and infrastructure that will enable the market to fly once policy and a firm regulatory regime are in place. The range of the next generation technologies being advanced will encourage competition and, while not every technology will succeed, by standing on the shoulders of previous technologies to reduce cost and risk, full scale and cost effective deployment of fossil fuel generation with CCS can become a market reality.

Written by Frank Ellingsen, Managing Director, CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad.

Edited by Claira Lloyd

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