CCS for gas - results of Element Energy study

Feb 03 2013

How much CCS can be practically deployed in the gas power sector and when? Recent modelling by Element Energy shows that the current trajectory of CCS activity in Europe will not deliver 10s of GW of gas CCS capacity. The study quantifies the most efficient policies by EU Member States and industry across the CCS chain required to deliver higher levels of gas CCS readiness. By Harsh Pershad, Element Energy.

The question of how much CCS can be deployed in the gas sector is becoming increasingly relevant in Europe, where scenario modelling points to an economic demand for tens of GW gas power with CCS in the 2030s delivering 100s of TWh of low carbon electricity. with demand ramping up steeply in the 2030s.

However the “practical” potential for gas CCS could be constrained by lack of CCS readiness across the fleet. Meaningful CCS readiness demands the availability by 2030 of suitable sites for capture and “bankable” options for CO2 transport and storage. It is clear that choices made today will have significant impacts on the CCS opportunities for the 2030s.

The European Commission recently published an Energy Roadmap to achieve deep CO2 cuts by 2050. The roadmap identifies a substantial ramp up in the capacity for gas CCS by the 2030s. However there are multiple hurdles to CCS deployment. An inability for a gas power station to deploy CCS where this is economically viable creates two important risks:

• “carbon lock-in”, where the plant continues to operate, which makes overall decarbonisation of the economy more difficult and more expensive to achieve; and

• “stranded assets”, where operating unabated plant is uneconomic, so that run hours are highly curtailed and society as a whole suffers from inefficient investment choices.


In December 2011, the European Climate Foundation commissioned Element Energy and Green Alliance to analyse the “practical” potential for CCS in European gas power sector in 2030, exploring at high level policies that could improve the take-up of gas CCS in the EU. For the purpose of the study, the practical potential is defined as the capacity (in GW) of the CCGT fleet that combine capture readiness with high feasibility of CO2 transport to one or more storage locations with sufficient available capacity.

The demand for gas power capacity is predicted to be 180-310 GW in 2030, with higher levels associated with decarbonisation scenarios involving high renewable electricity generation. This must be met through a combination of new build plant and, assuming typical plant lifetimes of 20 years, repowering of the existing fleet.

The CCS Directive requires, as part of consenting, that all new CCGT above 300 MW plant assess the feasibility of capture, transport and storage. Repowering provides an additional opportunity to make plants capture ready, but there is currently no legal requirement for this. There is a large gulf between the conditions that define minimal and meaningful CCS readiness. Sites which are meaningfully “CCS ready” must be able to implement CO2 capture, CO2 transport and CO2 storage. This implies that:

• Site selection is consistent with FEED-quality level information on the design requirements for capture, transport and storage facilities.

• Rights-of-way, Environmental, Safety and other approvals have been obtained (and are consistent with the required capture technology and any temporary storage requirements).

• Sufficient capacity for permanent CO2 storage exists, recognizing the potential competition for capacity from other sources and the inherent uncertainties associated with the subsurface.

• There is sufficient political and public support for CCS implementation.


The challenges of capture, storage and transport

Experience with flue gas desulfurization (FGD) requirements on coal power stations has shown the challenges of retrofitting clean-up technologies to plants that were not designed with this in mind. The experience suggests a plausible scenario where capture readiness is not meaningfully implemented early in the 2010s, and it becomes correspondingly more difficult to retrofit capture equipment on these plants when economics or regulations support deployment.

Current implementation of the requirements of the Directive by Member States appears very weak. During the 2010s, the timing and extent of implementation will likely remain vulnerable to the prevailing political pressure towards (or against) CCS deployment by industry and individual Member States.

Estimates for the theoretical CO2 storage capacity in Europe span a wide range (e.g. 100-300 Gt), but the “Bankable” capacity likely to be available in 2030 is likely to be orders-of-magnitude lower. Storage capacity is distributed unevenly across Europe in thousands of sites. Each of these will require data, time, and resource-intensive analysis to understand their capacity, containment, injectivity, cost, degree of appraisal work required, ease of monitoring, and conflict with other land users (Fig.1)

A significant (but currently unknown) fraction of the sites are unlikely to prove viable upon close analysis. The EU and/its Member States will need to be more pro-active in establishing condition that ensure high levels of confidence in CO2 storage site performance in time to underpin CCS investments.

Recent studies have emphasized the potential need for large CO2 transport networks in 2030 to meet high CCS demand scenarios. Indeed some scenarios envisage CO2 transport tonnages greater than the existing natural gas and oil transport capacity in Europe, which took several decades to build up and which benefitted from high confidence in reservoir properties, infrastructure standards, political support, robust demand, and compelling economics.

But even with strong market drivers, extensive or cross-border pipeline infrastructure can take more than a decade from concept to commissioning, implying that the foundations for widespread use of the infrastructure in 2030 must be in place before 2020. In addition, CO2 transport onshore may be heavily limited by the availability of corridors for pipelines and conflicts of land use.

To quantify the practical potential for CCS on gas power plant under a wide range of scenarios, Element Energy developed a model which considered:

1) The overall CCGT fleet capacity and country distribution between now and 2030

2) Member State social and political enthusiasm for CCS, and the subsequent timetable for regulators to enforce a meaningful set of equirements for CCS readiness.

3) Levels of bankable storage capacity, onshore and offshore, including competition for capacity including reserved storage for coal or industrial CCS, and levels of storage redundancy.

4) The ability to connect CCGT fleet with storage locations, either directly or by sharing CO2 transport infrastructure with coal or industrial CCS projects.


The results of modelling individual CCGT sites in Europe across six scenarios covering high and low levels of gas power demand with “CCS Push”, “CCS Pragmatic” and “CCS Go Slow” levels of policy intervention are shown in Figure 2.

The green bars indicate the how much (in GW) of the European gas power fleet has a high level of CCS readiness in 2030, i.e. capture, transport and storage all appear plausible. The range of practical potential spans <1 GW to >100 GW. It is clear that even in the “CCS Push” scenario, much of the fleet existing in 2030 is unlikely to be CCS ready.

How to increase the CCS readiness of the gas fleet?

Figure 3 illustrates how policy interventions could serve to increase the practical potential for gas CCS.

Importantly considerable efficiencies can be obtained by treating capture, transport and storage as a whole – as policies to target these individually may be inefficient as impacts are not simply additive. A one-size-fits-all approach to encouraging gas CCS in Europe may be politically challenging to implement, especially in advance of successful CCS demonstration.

The analysis shows that an efficient alternative could be policy development focused on a few lead countries with the most significant CCGT capacities and/or storage capacities. The table below illustrates the relative importance of selected issues for the countries with the largest predicted CCGT capacities in Europe, namely UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.



The modelling shows that the deployment of CCS on gas cannot be assumed to be straightforward. Scenarios indicate it would be practical for gas CCS to play an important and growing role in the supply of low carbon electricity in 2030 and beyond, particularly in Spain, the UK, Germany, France and Italy – the countries with the largest predicted CCGT capacity. These positive outcomes are however dependent on policy action to avoid the following barriers to CCS deployment:

• late or weak application of capture readiness requirements,

• low levels of “bankable” storage capacity,

• restrictions on onshore storage,

the absence of CO2 integrated transport networks with coal or industrial sources, and

• the absence of strong cross-border agreements.


Stakeholders who wish to ensure widespread practical potential for gas CCS in the period to 2030 and beyond must therefore consider the following interventions as a matter of urgency:

• early enforcement of capture readiness (possibly informed through a real CCS demonstration project)

• extensive storage characterization

• engaging with public concerns over the potential safety of onshore CO2 storage

• developing integrated CO2 transport networks, and facilitating cross-border CCS


Policies specifically aimed at encouraging the development of increased levels of practical potential for gas CCS could be initially targeted at a limited number of countries for maximum efficiency, but must be holistic, i.e. covering capture, transport and storage readiness, rather than treating these independently which appears to be the case at present. As the technology and CCS capacity requirements for the gas power sector become better understood, policymakers, investors and regulators could demand wider geographic coverage and increasingly meaningful levels of readiness in capture, transport and storage to avoid the threats of lock-in or stranded assets in the 2030s and 2040s.

Element energy

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