The recent spate of CCS project announcements reflects a growing recognition at governmental levels that, until renewable energy industries are able to deliver large amounts of energy consistently and at costs that are comparable to fossil fuel power generation, coal will remain an integral part of the global energy mix.
National Carbon Capture Center
In the US, the Department of Energy has established a National Carbon Capture Center that will investigate and test carbon capture technologies for an initial five year period. In Europe a number of pilot and demonstration carbon capture projects, backed by mixtures of public and private sector investment, have been put forward.
In the UK, the government has announced its policy that all new coal-fired power plants must fit operational CCS technology to at least 300 MW of the net power output as part of any planning consent. Furthermore, they must ensure the plant is 100% CCS compliant by 2025 (assuming CCS is demonstrated to be technically and economically viable by 2020). Other governments are set to implement similar policies.
It is likely that a modern coal-fired power plant fitted with carbon capture technology could reduce emissions output to between 100 and 250 g/kWh, lower than conventional gas-fired power generation (250-500 g/kWh) and coal-fired generation without CCS (750 - 1000 g/kWh).
The importance of successful commercial realisation of CCS technologies is of extreme significance to the future of global coal markets. The technology offers the opportunity to fulfill the dual ambitions of retaining secure sources of energy supply and creating low carbon economies, and therefore maintain coal’s role in the international energy mix.
Coal interests need to be aware of the transportation and storage elements associated with CCS, as well as the capability of their power plant customers to capture CO2. Failure of these different elements to work together could ensure that CCS infrastructures are not widely developed until 2030 or beyond. If this happens, the ramifications for the coal industry are huge.
There are three main strands to CCS: capture, transport and storage.
Three differing technologies, known as post-combustion, pre-combustion and oxyfuel, can be used to capture carbon at power generation sources.
Transportation of captured CO2 in liquid form to storage facilities is by either pipeline or shipping. It is likely over time that transportation hubs will be developed around clusters of power plants to minimise development costs. Pipelines are likely to be the most cost-effective method of transporting CO2 from power plant to storage facility. The principle of shipping CO2 is similar to transporting liquid natural gas (LNG) by tanker.
The transport element of CCS has moved more into focus as concerns have been raised that a lack of transport options could constrain future CCS developments.
Storage facilities can be developed in depleted oil and gas fields and aquifers. Depleted gas fields are likely to offer the most readily-available, near-future opportunities, as each field’s geological characteristics and storage capacities are already known.
In contrast to capture and transport, the issue of who will deliver CO2 storage is something of an open question. The few oil and gas companies who had shown some interest are backing off, as it becomes apparent that delivering a CO2 storage service to emitters is not compatible with oil and gas company objectives. Those interested in CCS should turn their attention to ensuring that someone is committed to storing their CO2. Without such companies, CCS will not get started.
Governments across the world have a great deal of issues to address in a short time scale, if the environmental benefits of CCS are to be maximised. The coal industry has much to gain from wide-scale adoption of CCS and should be a willing partner in assisting its early implementation.
Author: Sam Gomersall, CO2DeepStore
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/special-reports/30092009/governments_worldwide_make_plans_to_develop_ccs_technology/