Accelerating CCS implementation in the UK

Jul 22 2013


The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) sees Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as one of the UK’s big priority development areas for any future low carbon focused energy system. ETI Programme Manager for CCS, Andrew Green, explains.

The ETI - a public private partnership focused on the acceleration of the development of affordable, secure and sustainable energy technologies - has developed its Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME) to inform its strategy.
ESME is a national energy system design tool, which integrates power, heat, transport and infrastructure, searching for the lowest cost solution. ESME shows that CCS forms a major part of cost-effective energy system scenarios through to 2050. Furthermore, if CCS was not available, the cost of the energy system would be around £42bn per annum higher. To put it another way, without a successful CCS industry the cost of all forms of energy in 2050 would be two pence per kWh higher. These numbers point to an energy system-wide value of CCS. This is a view of CCS extending beyond low carbon electricity generation to include CCS with biomass, gasification applications that could produce hydrogen for transport and industrial uses.
By applying CCS to biomass, we could effectively work to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by creating ‘negative emissions’. Successful development could offset our continued use of gas and liquid fuels in specific parts of domestic heating and transport sectors where their replacement is likely to be particularly difficult and expensive. 
CCS creates a potentially huge opportunity to save energy system costs if it is adopted early enough, but there are significant challenges. Capturing CO2 at large scale incurs significant costs and storage of CO2 has long planning times when selecting, appraising, drilling, testing and constructing potential sites, all of which could take up to 10 years or more.
Although at first glance CCS appears an expensive addition to power generation, it is one of the most important strategic levers we can use if seeking to follow a path of decarbonisation. The opportunity costs associated with delivering a sustainable future energy system with CCS, ranged against the cost of doing so without it, far outweigh the absolute cost of CCS. 
The ETI is managing a series of projects it has commissioned and funded that aims to accelerate the implementation of CCS technology on fossil-fuel fired power stations and other major stationary CO2 sources in the UK, by demonstrating innovative technology which reduces the capital and operating costs of capture processes. In tandem with this work, the ETI is also working to reduce the risks and costs of storage through greater understanding and knowledge of storage assets and the monitoring of their potential operation. These are outlined below.
 
UK Storage Appraisal Project (UKSAP)
Launched in October 2009, the ETI’s UK Storage Appraisal (UKSAP) project has delivered a realistic, defensible and fully auditable assessment of potential CO2 storage capacity in the UK.
This £4m project involved Senergy Alternative Energy Ltd, the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage (University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University), Durham University, GeoPressure Technology Ltd, Geospatial Research Ltd, Imperial College London, RPS Energy and Element Energy Ltd. Last year we agreed a licence with The Crown Estate (TCE) and BGS to host and further develop the online database of mapped UK offshore carbon dioxide storage capacity produced through the project.
Launched to the public later this year, the web-enabled database – the first of its type anywhere in the world – will contain live, geological data, storage estimates, risk assessments and the economics of nearly 600 potential CO2 storage units of depleted oil and gas reservoirs, and saline aquifers around the UK. This will enable interested stakeholders to access information about the level of storage resource available to assist informed decisions related to the roll out of CCS in the UK.
 
Next Generation Capture Technologies
The ETI has invested in two types of next generation capture technologies – coal and gas. In 2011, the ETI invested £3.5m in the front-end engineering design for a unit to demonstrate coal capture technology. This project is aimed at pre-combustion carbon capture applications, involving CO2 removal by physical separation. 
Costain has produced a front end engineering design for a coal capture demonstration unit, working with the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College, London. 
Then last year we commissioned and funded a consortium to deliver a project which will see a 5MW carbon capture gas demonstration plant capable of capturing up to 95% of CO2 emissions designed, built and tested by 2016. The project could see more than £20m being invested to develop and verify advanced carbon capture technology. The technology will be designed to be used on new-build Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power stations or to retrofit CCS onto existing stations.
The technology that will be employed by the consortium of Inventys, Howden, Doosan Power Systems and MAST Carbon International is based around post combustion capture using a structured carbon adsorbent, housed within a rotating bed. An initial assessment by the ETI suggests that the technology could potentially reduce the typical cost of electricity by 13 per cent when compared to current CCS technology. The first phase of the project has seen a £1.6m investment in a small-scale demonstrator prototype, laboratory work and techno-economic assessments to confirm the projected benefits. 
 
CCS Modelling Tool Kit
This is a £3m project that will help support the future design, operation and roll-out of cost effective CCS systems in the UK.
The two-and-a-half year long project launched in September 2011 is creating a modelling tool-kit capable of simulating the operation of all aspects of the CCS chain, from capture and transport to storage.
This involves modelling technology provider Process Systems Enterprise (PSE), energy consultancy E4tech, and industrial partners EDF Energy, E.ON, Rolls-Royce and Petrofac – a company who expect to be involved in transporting and storing CO2 in the future. The project will result in a commercial modelling tool-kit built on PSE’s gPROMS modelling platform.
The Tool-kit will be used to support initial conceptual designs and eventual detailed design and operation of CCS systems by helping to identify and understand system-wide operational issues such as the effects of power station ramp-up or ramp-down on downstream storage operation, or the effect of downstream disturbances on power generation.
See the article titled, “Whole-chain system modelling” in this issue for more details.
 
CCS Mineralisation
This £1.4m project, launched in May 2010 and completed last year carried out a detailed study of the availability and distribution of suitable minerals across the UK along with the technologies that could be used to economically capture and store CO2 emissions.
Minerals and CO2 can react together to permanently store CO2 as a solid carbonate product, which can then be safely stored, used as an aggregate or turned into useful end products such as bricks or filler for concrete.
The consortium involved Caterpillar, BGS and the University of Nottingham.
The objective was to investigate the potential for CCS by mineralisation to mitigate at least 2% of current UK CO2 emissions and 2% of worldwide emissions over a 100-year period.
The project found that there is an abundance of suitable minerals available in the UK and worldwide to meet these mitigation targets.  However significant challenges remain to make the capture process economically attractive and to reduce its energy use.  Significant niche opportunities exist where waste materials can be used as feedstock and/or the process produces value-added products, but markets would not be at a level required to meet the mitigation targets.
 
High Hydrogen
This £2m project is designed to advance the safe design and operation of gas turbines, reciprocating engines and combined heat & power systems using hydrogen-based fuels.
Through new modeling and large-scale experimental work this project is identifying the bounds of safe design and operation of high efficiency CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) and CHP (combined heat and power) systems operating on a range of fuels with high and variable concentrations of hydrogen.
The aim of the project is to increase the range of fuels that can be safely used in power and heat generating plant.
The project involves the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), an agency of the Health and Safety Executive, in collaboration with Imperial Consultants, the consulting arm of Imperial College.
 
Appraisal of Saline Formations
In 2012 the ETI invested £2m into a project with National Grid  to carry out the UK’s first drilling assessment of a saline formation site for the storage of carbon dioxide, at a site 70km off Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.
The project represents a major step forward in the creation of a CCS industry in the UK.
National Grid will lead the drilling programme, starting in May, at the identified saline formation, a layer of porous sandstone rock over 1km below the seabed. The operation, using standard oil and gas drilling activities, will involve drilling up to two wells in the seabed to gather data to confirm that carbon dioxide can be safely and permanently stored at the site, while also confirming the scale and economics of the store.
Existing information has confirmed the store is very large and capable of storing carbon dioxide from several sources over a number of decades. The site is close to the shore and, importantly, near to two major clusters of carbon dioxide emitters in the UK making it an ideal storage location.
 
Mobilising private sector finance for CCS in the UK
In November 2012 the ETI, in collaboration with the Ecofin Research Foundation, published a report ‘Carbon Capture and Storage – Mobilising private sector finance for CCS in the UK’. This found that successful CCS deployment could be a huge economic prize for the UK in its low carbon transition – cutting the annual cost of meeting the country’s carbon targets by up to 1% of GDP by 2050. 
 
Project to assess flexible power generation systems
The ETI launched a project in late February to increase the understanding of the economics and potential use of energy systems involving low carbon hydrogen production, storage and flexible turbine technology.
Led by global engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler, in collaboration with the British Geological Survey, the £300,000 five-month project will assess the economics of flexible power generation systems which involve the production of hydrogen from coal, biomass or natural gas, its intermediate storage (for example, in underground salt caverns) and production of power in flexible turbines. It will also look to map suitable hydrogen storage salt cavern sites in and around the UK. The sites - which tend to be located inland or up to 25 miles off the UK coastline - will need to be of sufficient size, depth, location and quality before they can be considered for hydrogen storage.
 
CCS Measurement Monitoring and Validation
This project will deliver a system to provide assurance that carbon dioxide stored deep underground beneath the sea bed is secure.
ETI analysis has identified that a key knowledge gap is for proven systems capable of detecting and measuring any leak in the shallow subsurface and the marine environment of storage sites.  Although leakage is expected to be very unlikely, such systems will be important to any supply chain to provide assurance to regulators, storage providers and other stakeholders for the storage sector. An announcement on who will carry out the project for the ETI is expected in the Spring.
 
Next steps
Although CCS appears an expensive addition to power generation, it is one of the most important strategic levers the country could use for any decarbonisation of its economy. To move the industry forward, making early CCS projects investable and economically attractive is a key priority. Given the opportunities it offers, the technology around CCS requires major investment now to build its economic viability and help extend its role in any future UK energy system design. However nobody is immune to the fact that the investment case to support development has to be made clearly. 
CCS is policy dependent so investors are sensitive but the exploration of public-private partnerships and co-ordination mechanisms can help to provide a financial solution. Newly developed technology which reduces costs and accelerates deployment for new builds and retrofits by 2030 is therefore a critical challenge. 

ETI


Previous: DOE and ADM Illinois project advances

Next: Whole-chain CCS system modelling

Issue 59 Sept- Oct 2017

CCS in the U.S.: Bipartisan support grows for CCS incentives to drive projects .. California extends cap & trade .. Kemper the death knell for CCS? NOT. Korea and China joint CO2 capture research project .. Japan’s big steps toward CO2-free hydroge.....


Subscribers can access the latest issue here