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Energy Efficient CCS

Tom Baxter's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 14, 2020 4:34 pm GMT

Do you think the conversation on CCS would be different if we had more time before decarbonization was needed? If we were having these conversations with this technology 20 years ago, say, would it be a different viability scenario than we what we see today? Or does it just come down to the technology regardless? 

Tom Baxter's picture
Tom Baxter on Sep 15, 2020 6:34 am GMT

Matt, firstly I'm not a fan of CCS but it does look as if it will happen. I think it is just the technology which has been around for decades. CO2 removal in upstream oil and gas is common practice. 

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Sep 14, 2020 8:45 pm GMT

The process described is still amine solution based flue gas scrubbing. It may gain some efficiency from the CO2 compression scheme proposed, but it's only a marginal improvement in a process that is no longer expected to be used in power generation. The process was aimed at reducing emissions from otherwise conventional coal-fired power plants.

Hopes for a continuing role for coal in power generation now mostly center on gasification. The gasification process would produce separate streams of hydrogen and relatively pure CO2. The CO2 stream would require very little processing to make it ready for sequestration. That was the intent for the Kemper clean coal demonstration project. But the project was a disaster. It gave a black eye to the whole notion of CCS.

The Kemper project needn't have been a disaster. It was badly mismanaged. Although a somewhat simpler version of the process had already been proved out at pilot scale, what was attempted at Kemper was more than just a straight scale-up. Some new wrinkles were added that the builders thought would be easy to implement. But the designers, builders, and operators were power systems personnel undertaking a project that was better suited for experienced chemical process engineers. At least that's the most credible explanation I've seen for why it failed so badly. I suppose it didn't help that it was heavily subsidized in a government porkbarrel contracting environment.

Tom Baxter's picture
Tom Baxter on Sep 15, 2020 6:30 am GMT

Roger, Thanks for the reply. The situation in the UK is different with CCS set to play a part in the net zero drive. I did see this recently for a new plant in the US -

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Sep 16, 2020 2:19 pm GMT

Today´s EU ETS price for CO2 is surprisingly (to many) quite high: € 29.76 per tonne.  By constraining the supply of CO2 warrants, the EU will try to raise that price througout the 2020´s.  With the cost of CCS at about $75 per tonne I suppose there is a chance that only slightly improved processes can make CCS commercially worthwhile at some point, at least in the EU.

Norway put a billion or so dollars into bringing CCS into line economically for industrial flue gases.  That project failed and is now mostly mothballed.

However, it should be remembered that use of CO2 warrants are only required for combusion processes in which CO2 is emitted (plus certain emissions of N2O and PFCs).  If warrants were required for any and all  CO2 and GHG emissions, there would be more pressure on the price and more CO2 sequestered.

But, I think it is still doubtful that there are enough opportunities such as those in which CO2 must be removed from a gas stream, such as with methane production and transport, to make a sizable dent in ghg emissions. 

I hope I am wrong.  The US EPA and DOE under Obama made a strong case that carbon targets cannot be met without CCS, especially for coal combustion. However,  much has changed in many arenas since then (to say the least).

It will likely be evaluated again in the new government as part of the Green New Deal (excuse my optimism).  The demonstrated effectiveness of the ETS in restraining carbon emissions, though slow to start and erratic, may make it tempting for the US to try something similar.  I certainly hope the US learns the hard lessons from the EU experience and improves from there. At the very least, it would require that actual ghg emissions be reported so that progress, or lack thereof, can be tracked. 


Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Sep 17, 2020 4:46 pm GMT

This shows how great Renewable Energy like Solar PV, Wind and Hydro are. There is nothing to scrub or clean. Fixing the problem after you create it is much more expensive. 

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Sep 17, 2020 6:16 pm GMT

Yes, I quite agree.

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