Technology Centre Mongstad – progress one year on

Sep 29 2013

One year after the launch of Norway’s Technology Centre Mongstad, the world’s largest carbon capture testing facility, we spoke to managing director Frank Ellingsen about the developments so far. By Karl Jeffery.

Technology Centre Mongstad, currently the world’s largest carbon capture testing facility, was launched in May 2012 in the presence of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and a choir of local children.
Over the first 12 months, the plant was in operation for 5,000 hours in the period July 2012 to May 2013 (11 months or about 8,000 hours in total). 
The utility infrastructure was able to operate for 98 per cent of the time it was required to operate.
A lot of information has been generated about how a carbon capture plant can operate. This should all give more certainty to people planning to build full scale carbon capture plants in future, in particular providing a much clearer idea of the costs of construction and operation of the plant. 
“What we have done is to demonstrate that these kind of units could be operated with regularity over time,” says Frank Ellingsen, managing director of Technology Centre Mongstad. “That has provided some certainty to these technologies.”
“These advancements have reduced the knowledge gap of CCS technological development.”
The input gas comes from both a natural gas power plant and a refinery cracker.
TCM is a joint venture set up by the Norwegian state (75.12 %), Statoil (20 %), Shell (2.44 %) and Sasol (2.44 %).  
As you might expect from a mainly government owned project, Mongstad is sharing the results of its research as widely as possible. This includes talks at conferences, development of knowledge sharing networks, and publishing scientific papers. 3 scientific reports have been published.
It aims to increase knowledge on carbon capture technologies, in order to reduce technical and financial risk, and accelerate the development of qualified technologies capable of wide scale international deployment
“We are just in the starting point now to establish this knowledge sharing environment,” Mr Ellingsen says. 
Mr Ellingsen joined Mongstad in December 2012, and was previously Senior Vice President of Grenland Group Solutions (now renamed Agility Group), an engineering company based in Sandefjord, Norway, specialising in medium sized projects. 
This gives him a good background to understand what is required in getting an engineering project running like this one. Before that he was working for Norsk Hydro in various positions in including research. 
One tenth of full scale
The technology centre Mongstad can currently be considered approximately a tenth of a full scale plant, handling 100,000 tons a year of CO2, compared to 1.2m for a typical commercial gas power station.
So Mongstad is a stepping stone between the early demonstration projects and a full scale project.
“If you go from the size we have to the 1.2m or 1m ton based plant, we'll have a lot of information which makes that feasible,” Mr Ellingsen says. “That’s why we are doing this.”
Mongstad is currently the world’s largest CCS plant connected to a power station. It won’t hold this crown for long - the Saskpower Boundary Dam carbon capture plant, expected to be operating in 2014 or 2015, is expected to capture 1m tonnes per year of CO2.
The project is testing out different solvents and evaluating them – looking at amines and monoethanol amine (MEA). “The amines will be better than the MEA. That’s a more efficient solvent,” Mr Ellingsen says.
There are 2 critical factors with solvents – absorption of the gas into the amine (which requires heating), and the subsequent cooling. “The energy lost in those 2 processes must be as low as possible,” he says.
There are 2 amine absorption plants, supplied with exhaust gas.  An Aker Solutions plant is running amine technology, and an Alstom plant is running chilled ammonia technology. They have been put through a test plan.
Tests will shortly be performed using a solvent mix of amine, MEA and water, with the MEA concentration 30 weight per cent. The MEA absorption will be used as the ‘base case’ for comparison with other solvent technologies.
Data has been gathered from over 4,000 measuring points, with around 100 samples per day tested in a laboratory.
Next 4 years
Technology Centre Mongstad has a budget to run for five years in total from May 2012 to May 2017. 
Over the next 4 years, efforts will continue to refine the plant operations to improve efficiency, and Mr Ellingsen expects to see a series of incremental improvements.
“We can change the cost figures and also the energy penalty in the right direction.”
“Gradually the cost will go down and technical certainty will go up.”
There are also likely to be more technology vendors involved. Aker Solutions, Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Siemens have all registered their interest in the next invitation cycle for the amine plant, he says.
“We will also have a discussion with 15 different vendors to look at the possibility to test the technology at the large available space next to the amine plant ,” he said.
Max efficiency
So how efficient can a gas power station with carbon capture be, in terms of energy output divided by the total energy available in the gas?
Without CCS, the most efficient gas power plants can operate at 59 to 60 per cent efficiency.
“It can be 51 per cent with CCS,” he says. “I think 54 per cent is achievable but there’s no 54 per cent yet. We want a more energy efficient way of capturing the CO2.
“What we know today - is we can capture 90% of the CO2 from the emissions.”
“We also know, when you develop technology, you will increase the efficiency, and make the technology cheaper, and that's what we aim for.”
Public support
You need government support to make it work, Mr Ellingsen believes. “It is driven by public perception, forcing the government to push the technology forward,” he says. “That’s really needed to get this technology up and running.”
Mr Ellingsen believes that public support for measures to combat global warming will gradually increase – particularly if there is an increase in extreme weather. “You have extreme happenings which you can link to the change in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” he believes. “When that starts to be a public awareness, I think the pressure will come.”
The BBC reported that Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik resigned in 2005 partly because he insisted that the power station then being built at Mongstad must be fitted with CCS, but his coalition partners did not agree.
Norwegian environmental group Bellona believes that if the technology centre had not been built the present government would have been ‘brought down’, the BBC reported. 

Technology Centre Mongstad

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