Carbon capture and storage or carbon capture utilization and storage ccus plants are deemed by many organizations and researchers to be critical in achieving the world’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. National governments and major companies have made pledges to become net zero by the mid century.
The rapid large-scale commercialization of carbon capture plants around the world would avoid the accumulation of more dangerous emissions for the time period they are in operation and thus will save massive costs associated with climate change aftermaths.
Carbon capture and storage news was released back in 2014 when a UN report stated that the increasing cost of limiting global warming would double without the deployment of carbon capture and storage ccs technology. That is because CCS is the only technology that can reduce the emissions of existing power plants that are projected to stay in operation for decades to come.
The DAC technology is also the only one that can extract CO2 already accumulated in the atmosphere. According to climate scientists and experts, even if emitting emissions ends tomorrow, the world would still need to pull out around 800 gigatons of CO2 already accumulated in the atmosphere to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change and stay under the limit of 2 degrees warming.
Another factor that makes carbon capture an attractive choice is that it can be applied to a wide variety of emission sources like factories, industrial facilities and power plants. The retrofitting of emissions-intensive facilities with carbon capture and sequestration at a large scale will be necessary to make sure the world does not exceed its carbon budget targets.
Carbon Capture And Storage Plants Research
Research by Princeton University was also released last year putting forward five pathways for the US to become net zero by 2050. The world could take an example from the comprehensive research paper by the renowned institution. It explains the technologies and costs involved with their development that could be deployed for deep economy decarbonization in the US.
Carbon capture and utilization is present in all five scenarios for a variety of industrial processes and power generation technologies. Carbon storage is also developed except in one of the pathways for Net Zero America. According to the report, in all scenarios by 2050 between 0.7 to 1.8 Gt/y of CO2 is captured, 0.9 to 1.7 Gt/y of CO2 is sequestered and between 0.1 to 0.7 Gt/y of CO2 is converted to fuels.
Carbon capture is a technology still in its initial stages of development and worldwide deployment. It is also argued to be costly and unproven. According to the CCS Institute, the world’s biggest think tank on carbon capture and storage, there are currently 72 CCS hubs and facilities in various stages of development internationally. Around 16 of them are intended for underground storage with some of them expected to be operational by 2030.
26 of those CCS hubs and facilities are currently in operation. They are able to capture around 40 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. The majority are used with the purpose for enhanced oil recovery as it offers the most affordable economics at the moment. 6 of the world’s biggest operational CCS hubs and facilities intended for underground sequestration are presented here.
The Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project
The Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project is part of the Gorgon Project for natural gas extraction on Barrow Island in Western Australia. It involves the construction and operation of carbon capture and sequestration facilities for reducing the GHGs of Project Gorgon. It aims to cut 40% of Project Gorgon’s total emissions.
Operating at its full capacity, the project is capable of storing up to 4 million tons of CO2 per year. That makes it the world’s biggest CO2 sequestration facility and the longest in operation with an expected lifespan of more than 40 years. It is also the largest GHG reduction project undertaken by any industry.
The project works as it extracts the CO2 from the natural gas stream. The CO2 is then transported by pipelines into one of the three available drill centres. The pipeline is 7 kilometers long, from the LNG plant site to the drill centres.
The CO2 passes through nine injection wells directionally drilled from the three drill centres. Finally, it ends up into the Dupuy Formation, more than 2 km beneath Barrow Island where it becomes permanently trapped.
The injection project was approved by the Australian government in 2009 and started operation in early August 2019. The total investment of the storage part of the Gorgon project is about $1,5 billion (2 billion Australian dollars).
The Gorgon Project is a joint venture between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3%), ExxonMobil (25%), Shell (25%), Osaka Gas (1.25%), Tokyo Gas (1%) and JERA (0.417%). The Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) will monitor the performance of the project over the long term. It is expected to sequester more than 100 million tons of CO2 over its lifetime.
Quest Carbon Capture And Storage Plant
The Quest CCS project is built at Shell’s oilsand facility located at the Scotford Upgrader in Alberta that processes crude bitumen from oil sands into a range of synthetic crude oils. The oilsand upgrader is owned by a joint venture of Shell Canada Energy (60%), Marathon Oil Sands (20%) and Chevron Canada Limited (20%) called Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP).
The CO2 is captured from the hydrogen production process. Hydrogen is also produced at the facility to upgrade bitumen from oil sands into synthetic crude oil. The extracted CO2 is then transported through a 64 km long pipeline and stored 2 km underground into a saline aquifer.
The Quest CCS project has the capacity to store 1 million ton of CO2 per year and is expected to reduce a third of the CO2 emissions from the Scotford Upgrader. Its lifespan is estimated to be at least 25 years so around 27 million tonnes of CO2 should be safely stored.
The sequestration facility began operation in November 2015 and up until July 10, 2020, it successfully stored five million tons of CO2. That amount exceeded expectations. It was also estimated that it was 35% cheaper to operate Quest than what was forecasted back in 2015.
Exceeding its targets, the Shell Quest carbon capture project acts as an incentive for the company and its partners to continue investments in CO2 sequestration globally. The Northern Lights CCS project in Norway that Shell, Total and Equinor have embarked upon in 2020, could be seen as an incorporated lesson from Quest.
Wabash CO2 Sequestration Project
The Wabash CCS project is located at Wabash Valley Resources’ ammonia plant in Indiana. Wabash Valley Resources is an affiliate of the independent commodity merchant company Phibro LLC and is producing hydrogen and ammonia fertilizer. The carbon capture plant will enable the production of ammonia with nearly zero carbon emissions.
The project is estimated to sequester almost 100% of the plant’s CO2 emissions. It has started development in 2019 and is expected to be completed in 2022. The CO2 capture capacity is 1.5 – 1.75 million tons per year which makes it one of the largest CCS facilities in the US.
The captured CO2 will be stored around 2 km underground in a saline sandstone aquifer known as Mount Simon Sandstone. The project is partially funded by Oil and Gas Climate Investments (OGCI) – an organization established by 12 major oil companies in 2014 to facilitate the reduction of GHG emissions.
It was also announced in April 2021 that Wabash Valley Resources LLC has selected a Honeywell UOP technology to capture and sequester the CO2 emissions from a co-located clean hydrogen energy production plant.
Sleipner CO2 Storage
The Sleipner carbon capture and storage plant in Norway is the first offshore CCS facility and the longest in operation in the world. The project was commissioned in September 1996 but due to technical problems started sequestering CO2 emissions securely in August 1997.
It is located at the Sleipner West and East natural gas fields in the central part of the North Sea. The facility aims to capture and sequester underground the CO2 concentration of the natural gas in the Sleipner West field. The CO2 concentration of the field is 9% and the Norwegian government only allows 2.5% before imposing taxes.
The CCS project is operated by Equinor and a group of partnering companies. It has the capacity to store up to 1 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. Without the facility, it has been estimated that Norway’s total emissions would have been 3% higher over the last 20 years.
Since the project is a pioneer in the CCS space, it provides unique insights and learning about long-term carbon capture and sequestration. For its almost 25 years of operation, it has proven that it is technologically viable to inject and measure CO2 in an offshore reservoir under the seabed.
Back in 2019, Equinor has announced a digital platform for sharing the datasets of the project to support CCS researchers and developers.
Snøhvit CO2 Storage
Snøhvit carbon storage is a project located in Norway that captures the CO2 emissions of the natural gas production in the Snøhvit field and stores it 2,500 metres beneath Barents sea. The emissions are stored in a suitable geological layer of porous sandstone called the Tubåen formation.
The project has the sequestration capacity of 700,000 million tons of CO2 annually with a full injection capacity planned of 31 – 40 million tons. It is operated by Equinor and is its second large scale CO2 injection project after Sleipner CCS. It started operation in April 2008.
The natural gas of the Snøhvit field is liquified in the Hammerfest LNG plant built at Melkøya. It has 5-6% CO2 concentration and that CO2 needs to be removed before the natural gas is liquified. A 153 km long onshore to offshore pipeline transports the CO2 from the Hammerfest LNG plant back to the Snøhvit field where it is stored underground.
Illinois Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage Project
The Illinois Industrial CCS Project is a large-scale commercial project that captures and stores the emissions from the ethanol plant production facility of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in Decatur, Illinois. The plant ferments corn to make ethanol as a biofuel and the CCS facility sequesters the CO2 by-product in Mount Simon Sandstone.
The facility can store up to 1 million ton of CO2 per year, however, EPA data has revealed that the project managed to sequester just 519,780 tons of CO2 in 2019 and is yet to reach its target.
It began operation in April 2017. The permit applications for the injection wells were submitted back in 2011. After a three year delay from EPA, it finally received permission in 2014. It still managed to successfully capture and sequester 1 million tons of CO2 from 2011 to 2014.
The total cost of Illinois Industrial CCS facility came to $208 million. The US Department of Energy funded $141.4 million and the remaining $66.5 million was paid for in a cost-sharing agreement between ADM and its corporate partner Schlumberger Carbon Services.
The carbon capture and storage plants around the world, dedicated to permanent underground storage, are insufficient to have a meaningful impact on the rising emissions levels. The technology is still not commercialized on a large scale but the knowledge and experience gained by the few successfully deployed CCS projects worldwide will help support their further development.
Even though there are just 6 carbon capture plants intended for storage instead of enhanced oil recovery, they managed to contribute substantially to the decarbonization efforts of their domestic economies. A further objective of the CCS global community is to facilitate the advancement, validation, and economies of scale of the technology to enable safe and cost-effective abatement of CO2.