Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is now, more than ever, regarded as a promising way to reduce the amount of harmful CO2 emitted from coal and gas fired power plants into the atmosphere.
Once captured the CO2 can be stored in suitable geological formations in the ground off and onshore, while also being used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) at aging oil wells.
The International Energy Agency points to the need for CCS technology to be successfully demonstrated in at least 30 projects by 2020, and for it to be routinely used in power generation by 2030 with the aim to limit warming to 2°C. The IEA also estimates that CCS applied to power generation and industrial processes could account for almost 20% of emission reductions needed by 2050 to stabilise atmospheric CO2 to 450ppm (parts per million).
As such many countries – Norway, Australia, UK and industry leader, the US – have announced significant investment packages for CCS projects.
CarbonNet Project, Australia
The flagship CarbonNet project, also in Victoria, will test trapping carbon dioxide from electricity generation and new coal-based industries, and transporting it to geological storage sites in the Gippsland Basin.
The network could integrate multiple carbon capture projects in the region, transporting the CO2 via a common-use pipeline and injecting it into deep offshore underground storage.
Can CO2 be stored in rock formations beneath the seabed?
In 2012, the project received A$70m from the Australian Government and A$30m from the State of Victoria.
A massive global coal provider, Australia is keen to ensure the legitimacy of its coal industry in a carbon neutral future and so far more than A$300m has been committed under the COAL21 Fund to a range of CCS projects in Queensland, New South Wales and nationally.
Gulf of Mexico storage investment, US
In July, The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in the US announced it had selected four projects to receive just under $18m of funding between them through its carbon storage programme.
The programme is designed to develop and advance the effectiveness of onshore and offshore carbon storage technologies and reduce the challenges associated with implementation, and prepare them for widespread commercial deployment between 2025 and 2035.
In particular the funded research projects will assess the prospective geologic storage potential of offshore subsurface depleted oil and natural gas reservoirs and saline formations on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico using existing geologic and geophysical data to conduct a prospective storage resource assessment that will approximate the amount of CO2 that can be safely stored.
Projects benefiting from the funding include offshore storage resource assessment by Denver-based oil and gas consultancy Nitec, which will develop a quantitative assessment of the volume of CO2 that can be stored in depleted oil and natural gas fields in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico with and without associated CO2-EOR, supported by around $2.4m in total funding.
Another project conducted by GeoMechanics Technologies will carry out an assessment of CO2 storage resources in depleted oil and gas fields in the Ship Shoal Area, Gulf of Mexico.
World Bank’s Carbon Capture and Storage Capacity Building Trust, South Africa
In October, the Norwegian government announced it would renew its long term partnership with major coal consumer, South Africa, on CCS research, making around R16m available to the World Bank’s Carbon Capture and Storage Capacity Building Trust. The money will partly assist in funding a pilot carbon capture storage project in South Africa.
South Africa is one of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters at about 400 million tonnes a year and is looking to reduce its contribution to global climate change.
The project is being carried out in four stages; the first two stages – examining the potential for CCS in South Africa and to atlas potential sites for long term storage – were both completed by 2010.
The third phase, currently underway, is to build a 10,000 tonnes per year CO2 pilot plant at Bongwana near Harding in KwaZulu-Natal. The fourth phase will be to scale up the plant to a million tonnes per year.
The extracted CO2 will be stored in gas fields, mostly likely in former gas fields offshore in the Algoa and Zululand Basins.
Sleipner field, Norway
The first ever commercial CO2 storage project is Statoil’s Sleipner field offshore Norway. Each year since 1996, Statoil has captured round 1 million tonnes of CO2 from the natural gas in the company’s Sleipner field, and has stored it in a formation more than 800m below the seabed.
CO2 at the site is not collected for environmental reasons but because the CO2 level in the produced natural gas from the Sleipner field is too high in relation to the buyers’ requirements, therefore CO2 is captured on the Sleipner field before it is re-injected and stored in the bedrock.
In particular, Norway’s CO2 tax was one of the triggers for Statoil’s plans to separate the CO2 gas offshore and has helped the company become a world leader in CO2 capture and storage.
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By early 2013, a total of more than 14 million tonnes of CO2 from Sleipner’s gas production had been stored.
UK Peterhead Project
Shell’s flagship Peterhead Project in the UK is part of the UK government’s CCS commercialisation programme. It involves the capture, compression and transportation of CO2 from the existing Peterhead power station to long-term storage sites deep under the seabed of the North Sea.
The project is now in the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) phase. An agreement was signed between Shell and the UK Government on February 24, 2014, allowing the project to move into this phase, which is expected to last through 2014 and 2015. If successful, the project could help open up the UK North Sea to future offshore CO2 storage investment.
A report by Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage says that accelerating deployment of CCS can enable CO2 – EOR in the UK Continental Shelf. At a national level this synergy between CCS and CO2 – EOR could provide, overall, the most cost-effective way to accelerate the energy transition between 2018 and 2030 to meet the Committee on Climate Change decarbonisation pathways.