Swansea plans large scale carbon sequestration field trials planned

Feb 04 2019

Swansea University's Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) reveals plans for testing new technology to capture CO2 in full scale field trials.

Swansea University is part of a UK environmental coalition which is to pursue very large-scale decarbonization technology field trials spearheading construction of regional permanent carbon storage facilities in US shale basins.

Recently UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry announced the UK's goal to lead an international challenge to remove carbon from emissions.Consistent with this objective and highlighting the important role of innovation in supporting cost reduction, Very Large Scale Decarbonization Partners (VLS Decarb) announced its intention to carry out field trials of its profoundly large-scale capable CO2 sequestration system in several UK and EU locations.

Now VLS Decarb is planning similar field trials in several US shale basins where, pending results, these trial sites will be further developed into fully functioning carbon dioxide storage facilities capable of permanently storing a significant percentage of annual U.S. CO2 emissions.  Initially targeted US shale basins include the Marcellus, Haynesville, and Eagle Ford.

VLS Decarb is in the process of securing Precedent Agreements for long-term carbon storage contracts from industrial, institutional and governmental clients seeking to mitigate CO2 emissions associated with their operations, and in some instances availing themselves of available US carbon tax credits (26 U.S. Code § 45Q - Credit for Carbon Dioxide Sequestration).

The company's major-market patented and globally patent pending suite of technologies hold the potential to permanently sequester atmospheric CO2 at the levels stipulated by the Paris Climate Change Accord of December 2015. Specifically, it could remove volumes of CO2 sufficient to arrest the progression of climate change and potentially reverse harmful effects being experienced from unmitigated CO2 emissions of human origins.

During the past five years, the technology has been advanced by an extensive R&D collaboration involving VLS Decarb's academic and industry partners, the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University and an international array of academic and governmental institutions and funding agencies. This research and development partnership, funded by Innovate UK, has led to the development of novel materials that are key to enabling the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) concept.

In addition to an industry partnership with Glass Technology Services (GTS), ESRI brings a significant ongoing collaboration with University of Chester and Université Grenoble Alpes. The enabling research for this project has been supported by Innovate UK, and both the RICE and FLEXIS projects, which are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government. 

In the field so far, specifically focused and scoped tests have been undertaken which have demonstrated the viability of various key components of the system. The complete process will be tested in field trials going forward and the results are expected to demonstrate the widespread applicability of the technology and its commercial viability and self-sustaining features, such as supporting intermittent supplies of electric power generation (wind, wave and sun) while also providing the electric power required to drive the sequestration process itself.

The CO2 storage and power generation potentials are: approximately 35 years of global electric power requirements net of the energy consumed in sequestering all global CO2 emissions from all sources during the same time interval is provided by VLS Decarb alone. If wind, wave and solar, along with similar cohorts of clean (carbon neutral) energy sources could provide 50% of needs during the time we are sequestering, the result would obviously be approximately 70 years of carbon free electricity worldwide, with zero net CO2 emissions from all sources.

How it works

Research data demonstrates that the best use of unconventional (shale) reservoirs is to store CO2, the noxious byproduct of burning natural gas and other fossil fuels. Shale formations, which are ubiquitous in the Earth's crust, can potentially be harnessed to permanently store injected CO2 for time intervals measured in geologic terms, literally hundreds of millions of years. The following image illustrates the process, which occurs in eight basic steps:


 ‌The carbon sequestration process

Steps 1, 2 & 3 – Temporarily accessing planetary shale source rocks with a completely non-toxic production system and removing the natural gas (methane) within them.

Steps 4 & 5 – Massive surplus electric power production (net of the carbon capture and sequestration operations) while simultaneously achieving an extraordinary negative carbon footprint and the production of large volumes of fresh water.

Step 6, 7 & 8 – Refilling the emptied reservoir spaces with many times more volumes of atmospheric carbon dioxide than generated from the extracted methane, and then terminating the access pathways from these containers via natural bio-degradable means resulting in permanent large-scale CO2 sequestration throughout geologic time which is not dependent upon vertical well bore durability.

ESRI Founder and Director Professor Andrew R Barron said, “Traditional carbon sequestration is fraught with issues, in particular the economic incentive for industry to decarbonize itself. Our approach offers a significant opportunity for Industry and Governments to ensure a low carbon future while sustaining employment and the economy.”

VLS Decarb Founder John Francis Thrash MD said, "Carbon sequestration in source rock deposits is a universally available solution for permanently removing carbon from the environment that has been sitting plainly before our eyes and yet un-noticed until now. Ironically, the methane extraction allows for disposal of the necessary volume of CO2 required to reverse climate change. All of this is accomplished in one sustainable, commercially viable operation."


Swansea University

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