How CCS can help to eliminate CO2 emissions through the storage of carbon dioxide
For every gram of CO2 emitted by human activity, we are consuming decisive time, crucial to minimise our undeniable impact on Earth’s equilibria. The desirable scenario is to rely on renewable energy, hoping its fast implementation throughout the world. In a more realistic scenario, CCS implementation (CO2 capture, transport, utilisation and long-term storage) is an indispensable parallel effort.
Only a combination of strong energy policies and research for implementing no-emissions technology, promoting energy efficiency and fully developing CCS will allow the transition towards a decarbonised economy.
Political commitment and funding frames supporting CCS account remarkable milestones already. Among these, the Paris Agreement, the European SET Plan and the 2020 and 2030 Climate-Energy packages, to lower EU´s greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 with respect to 1990, and 80 to 95 % by 2050. The Framework Programmes for research and technological development (FP and Horizon 2020) and other international initiatives have enabled RD&D on CCS.
Still, there are several challenges to overcome at the different stages of the CO2 value chain. A major one is making CCS economically attractive over time. Business models and opportunities are currently unclear or underexploited. Besides the main business areas for the core technologies, additional services for the practical implementation are not yet designed or developed.
Part of the reason is that CCS still needs substantial RD&D efforts to better assess economic parameters. A lack of sufficient political and legal frames and low social and industry awareness also contribute to the sense of uncertainty. Thus, larger joint efforts are needed from governments, industry and research actors to establish new market opportunities, promote social awareness and actively support CCS development.
On the technological side, there are remaining gaps that need to be solved to make CCS a reality. At present, there is no unique capture technology that is economical and suitable for all industrial sectors and for any location. Besides, the readiness levels vary considerably among the alternatives. Solvent-based technologies have been validated at large scale. Few of them can reach commercial scale in the short-term, though their investment and operation costs still need further reductions. Research on advanced solvents, membrane and adsorbent-based processes are showing encouraging progress.
Also in parallel, formerly less mature concepts are breaking in strongly with the latest advances. Among them, technologies based on solid looping cycles (e.g. calcium and chemical looping, Sorption-Enhanced Reforming for hydrogen production with CO2 capture) are turning into realistic alternatives. Hence, to a different extent, all these routes need additional RD&D for wide deployment at full scale.
Once captured, a small fraction of CO2 will be diverted for utilisation, expected to contribute to reducing emissions to a quite limited extent. Meanwhile, the fate of most CO2 will be safe storage for thousands of years. Thus, CO2 needs to be transported to the storage sites through pipelines, ships or tankers. Large-scale transport of reasonable dry and pure CO2 mainly from CO2-doomes in the USA has been done for decades with satisfactory results, i.e. with no critical corrosion problems.
However, CO2 captured from fossil-fuelled sources might contain flue gas impurities that have not been transported before and could trigger corrosion. It is also regarded a challenge to design and to operate a CO2 network connecting many point sources to offshore storage sites. To ensure safe transport of CO2, there is a manifest need of more experimental data and better flow assurance models.
Finally, geological storage of CO2 in underground reservoirs has shown to be a viable technology. However, experience at the existing pilots revealed issues related to induced seismicity, visible surface uplift or pressure build up. It is still needed better understanding and quantification of various geological processes that may arise from the injection of high-pressure fluids into underground reservoirs.
Upscaling existing storage pilots will require an adequate geomechanical assessment to limit risk. Improved characterisation of candidate reservoirs is also an important prerequisite for establishing new storage sites. Besides, experience in the long-term safety of CO2 storage is limited at present and should gain deeper scientific knowledge. The risk of CO2 leakage is another issue that needs to be considered and monitored during and after injection. The use of tracers is a well-established method for monitoring water and gas in oil reservoirs and has proven to be effective to obtain information about well-to-well communication, heterogeneity and fluid dynamics. However, the behaviour of CO2 in a reservoir is more complex and still requires additional research efforts.
In summary, the readiness of capture and transport technology, adequate geo-mechanical assessment and monitoring of short-to-long-term CO2 storage have progressed considerably, but need further RD&D to launch large-scale CCS projects in the coming years.
Norway has a strong potential to become the leading supplier of CCS technology in Europe. The competitive advantages are large storage reservoirs offshore, remarkable advances in CCS and world´s leading expertise in shipping and offshore industries.
At the forefront research in Norway, the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) is developing CCS and energy technologies at international level. Founded in 1948, with approximately 600 employees and €100 million in annual turnover, IFE is an independent foundation actively contributing to a more climate-friendly energy system, based on renewable and CO2-free energy sources, with a focus on technological innovation.
We apply a broad approach towards global sustainability, combining efforts on CCS, renewables, low-value raw materials, and improved industrial processes. We maintain that CCS and low environmental impact energy and industry should be prioritised, by supporting their validation throughout their complete RD&D timeline to avoid the innovation gaps frequently found at up-scaling, industrialisation and commercialisation stages.
Please note: this is a commercial profile
Dr. Viktoriya Yarushina
Researcher and Group Leader at the Environmental Technology Dept.
Dr Arne Dugstad
CO2 centre coordinator and Research leader at the Materials and Corrosion Dept.
Dr Sissel Opsahl Viig
Senior Researcher and Group Leader at the Tracer Technology Dept.
Mr Julien Meyer
Senior Researcher and Group Leader at the Environmental Dept.
PhD, Head of Environmental
Institute for Energy Technology
Tel: +47 93624893