Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage: An essential technology for facilitating carbon neutrality

The Nordic region has ambitious climate goals and visions that could be achieved using CCUS as a complement to other measures

Nordic Energy Research aims at taking an active part in the green transition by facilitating a joint approach to Nordic challenges, where CCUS is one of the focus areas. Through networking groups, funding research activities and dissemination of information, we facilitate the deployment of CCUS in the Nordic region.  

What is the Nordic take on CCUS?

The Nordic region has ambitious climate goals and visions that could be achieved using CCUS as a complement to other measures. There is a potential for a CCS chain from capture to storage in the Nordic and North Sea regions involving major infrastructure and storage components. Also, the Nordic region, in particular Sweden and Finland, have a high share of solid biomass fuels in the total energy consumption. This suggests that capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of biomass in bio-CCS could be an effective and cost-efficient option to achieve carbon negative solutions.

Today, there are only a few CCUS projects in operation. Even though the technology has been around since the 1980’s, costs are still high and further maturing of the technologies is necessary for large-scale deployment.

Figure 1. CCUS involve the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, the transport of the captured CO2, and either utilisation as carbon resource in biofuels or other products, or permanent storage in geological formations. (Illustration: The Bellona Foundation / Negative CO2)

The Nordic countries have different starting points – geologically, politically, and economically. In Sweden and Finland, we find the largest industrial emission-sources of CO2, but also many legal hindrances, while in Norway we find the largest and most suitable storage units. Norway also has the advantage of considerable geological competence, as a result of decades of oil and natural gas recovery. There are also geological opportunities for CO2-storage in Denmark, but deployment has been slowed down by the lack of acceptance from the local community. Meanwhile, Iceland is making progress with a CCUS technique turning CO2 into minerals.

The nature of CCUS technology, with the different elements (capture, transport, storage, utilisation), require multidisciplinary and transnational collaboration. Thus, there is a lot to gain from Nordic collaboration on CCUS, regardless of political, technological, or legal issues. This is acknowledged by the Nordic Prime Ministers, who in January 2019 declared that they would intensify their cooperation in order to catalyse the scaling up of Nordic sustainable solutions.

Nordic Energy Research and CCUS

Current activities
Nordic Energy Research is taking part in several activities to promote CCUS-research and further its deployment in the Nordic region.

  • Negative CO2 – The Nordic Energy Research Flagship project Negative CO2 combines technologies and research that will help reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere effectively and at a low cost. The project focus at bio-CCS with a special aim of taking the CO2 capturing-technology Chemical Looping Combustion to the next level in its development by upscaling it to a semi-commercial scale.
  • Accelerating CCS Technologies (ACT) – Together with the collaboration-initiative ACT, Nordic Energy Research aims at facilitating the emergence of CCUS via transnational funding. The projects funded aspire to accelerate and mature CCUS technology application through targeted innovation and research activities. Nordic Energy Research is funding various types of projects – e.g. sociological or economical – as long as at least two Nordic partners are participating. Link to announcement.
  • The Networking Group on CCUS (NGCCUS) – NGCCUS was established in 2019 by the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Energy Policies and consists of representatives from the Nordic and Baltic countries’ authorities and ministries. The group mainly focuses on cooperation within CCUS policy development and works as a platform for discussing CCUS policy and strategy issues. The group also monitors the CCUS-development in the Nordic-Baltic countries and acts as an adviser for the arrangement of the Baltic Carbon Forum. Nordic Energy Research is a part of the group and assists in the work of the secretariat.
  • Nordic or Nordic-Baltic PhD and Researcher Mobility Programme – Nordic Energy Research is funding a “CCU-Nordic network”. The project aims at creating a strong academic network between four leading Nordic research groups by strengthening the interdisciplinary mobility for training of highly qualified researchers and create the basis for a strong CCU-Nordic network.

Past activities
Nordic research collaboration on CCS in the Nordic region was done by the Nordic CCS Competence Center (NordiCCS)in which Nordic Energy Research also participated. NordiCCS conducted several studies on CCS in the Nordic countries between 2011–2015 and involved several Nordic research centres as well as representatives from the industrial sector. Among other things, the collaboration resulted in a tool that can be used to evaluate and rank potential storage units. With the tool, it was concluded that the total theoretical storage capacity of CO2 within the territories of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are up to 120.000 million tons. As a comparison, Sweden’s industrial sector emits app. 19 million tons every year. NordiCCS makes a strong case for collaboration on CCUS in the Nordic region, to facilitate a joint approach to Nordic challenges. 

Negative CO2: Bio-CCS is non-optional, but not a silver bullet

CO2 emissions must be reduced drastically now, not just from energy, but also from transport, industry and agriculture. The requirement for technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere at some…

Now, more than ever, we need to cut the amount of CO2 we emit in order to prevent a further escalation of climate change. To reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, the deployment of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, electric mobility, and new industrial processes must be accelerated.

As a global community, we have been very slow in implementing such measures, and emissions have risen year on year for decades, at best they will likely flatten. A slow motion climate car crash is currently the most likely outcome as the concrete intended actions of the parties of the Paris Agreement are not at all ambitious enough. This is why negative emissions, along with drastic emissions cuts, are required to reach the 2°C goal.

CO2 emissions must be reduced drastically now, not just from energy, but also from transport, industry and agriculture. The requirement for technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere at some scale is non-optional, but negative emissions will never be a safety net for reduced or delayed climate action now.

Negative emissions, although a necessary technology that will provide us with the possibility to avoid a rise of global temperature that will cause climatic disasters, are limited by geography, land use, and deployment time. Some of the primary technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere are: air capture in combination with CCS, afforestation, and Bio-CCS.

Air capture

The technology that naturally comes to mind when discussing the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is the direct capture thereof from the ambient air. This technology is referred to as “air capture”. Although this option sounds appealing, there are technical, financial, and structural limitations.

Air capture can achieve “negative CO2 emissions” on the condition that the captured CO2 is stored permanently, requiring CO2 transport and geological storage infrastructure. However, the process of capturing CO2 from the air is highly energy demanding. In an age where valuable low carbon energy is already in short supply, there are more benefits to the direct usage thereof to decarbonise, for instance, the steel production, transport, and home heating.

The high-energy demand, the technical challenges, and the lack of additional benefits make air capture a less desirable technology for the removal of atmospheric CO2. A more advantageous measure is afforestation.

Afforestation

Planting trees where there were none before, afforestation, and planting trees where forests previously stood, reforestation, have the potential to lower the level of CO2 in the air, while providing additional environmental benefits to the ecosystem. If a substantial area of trees is planted globally, CO2 from the ambient air is locked in the biological material of the trees during its life cycle, and the overall level of CO2 in the atmosphere is reduced. If the trees are planted in large enough area, and are protected from further usage, such as logging or burning to create agricultural opportunities, this can be considered a carbon sink or carbon storage.

Not only does afforestation have a positive effect on the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, larger forests also have a positive impact on other aspects of the environment. Examples of such benefits are the prevention of erosion of the soil, and the advantages such forests provide to the biodiversity in such areas.

There might, however, be resistance to the planting of large forests from those, who are competing for the same land areas for the purposes of agriculture or other economic activities. Such forests might thus be threatened, making this method a potentially more insecure climate measure.

While the impacts of afforestation and reforestation on the climate and on the environment are positive, this method of achieving negative emissions is limited. Afforestation would have to be supplemented with other, more large-scale and effective methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The combination of the usage of truly sustainable biomass, which does not compete with afforestation, with CCS would provide these desperately needed large-scale negative emissions.

Bio-CCS

As is the case with afforestation, other types of biomass also absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Examples of advanced, truly sustainable biomass, which can be used to produce decarbonisation pathways for difficult sectors such as the aviation sector, include those based on municipal sewage, agricultural waste or algae produced in sea water.

Some examples of how Bellona has worked towards promoting the production of truly sustainable biomass are Ocean Forest and Sahara Forest Project.

The production of these types of biomass does not present competition with regards to land use or food production, yet it has a minimal effect on the environment. When the CO2, which is produced during the production of biofuel with this biomass, is captured and stored permanently in geological formations, the CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. A major advantage of Bio-CCS is that it is the only carbon negative method that can both provide energy and at the same time remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Limits to Bio-CCS

The emission of CO2 must be drastically curtailed without delay. Parallel to significant cuts in the emission of CO2, which can be achieved through measures like the uptake of renewable energy, improved energy efficiency, and CCS, it is essential to invest in the development and deployment of carbon negative solutions. Of these carbon negative solutions, Bio-CCS has the potential to be deployed on the biggest scale with advantages in energy supply and decarbonisation of other sectors.

There are limits to the amount of negative emissions we can achieve. Carbon negative technologies can be the key to curbing out of control climate change, but there is an upper limit of atmospheric CO2 beyond which even carbon negative solutions cannot rescue us.

For these reasons, it is of immense importance that we implement all deep decarbonisation technologies such as industrial CCS now, reducing our reliance on carbon negative solutions in the future. We must not delay the development of technologies enabling the full-scale deployment of Bio-CCS. Any such delay will also rob future generations of the tools to clean the atmosphere, which past generations have polluted.

Nordic Energy Research joins Accelerating Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies (ACT) initiative

Together with the Nordic research councils, Nordic Energy Research has identified Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) as a focus area for 2018-2021. There is every indication that CCUS must…

Together with the Nordic research councils, Nordic Energy Research has identified Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) as a focus area for 2018-2021.

There is every indication that CCUS must be a part of the solution for the Nordic countries to become carbon neutral by 2050. As part of this strategic focus, Nordic Energy Research has joined the ERA-Net initiative Accelerating CCS Technologies (ACT) as a funding partner for Nordic countries. As of today, Norway is the only Nordic country that participates in ACT as a funding partner. Norway is also the coordinator of the initiative. Nordic Energy Research will work to encourage more Nordic countries to participate in ACT, either through Nordic Energy Research or as funding partners, to accelerate Nordic collaboration within CCUS research.

Nordic Energy Research has allocated 3,5 MNOK for projects in a call for proposals in 2020 and is thereby a relatively small funding partner. Through larger Nordic participation, there are ambitions to increase the Nordic contribution. Nordic Energy Research intends to support projects where two or more Nordic partners are involved, focusing on research topics such as business models, legal regulations, public awareness and societal impacts.

More information about the call will follow.

The climate benefits of the Nordic forests

A brochure produced by Nordic Forest Research (SNS) and the Nordic Council of Ministers explains the climate benefits of the Nordic forests. These benefits can broken down into two main…

A brochure produced by Nordic Forest Research (SNS) and the Nordic Council of Ministers explains the climate benefits of the Nordic forests. These benefits can broken down into two main categories; carbon storage, and substitution. To find out more about how Nordic forests can help the climate and to download the brochure, visit the SNS website below.

nordicforestresearch.org/climatebenefit/

Carbon capture and storage crucial in decarbonising industry

Seeking to dramatically cut emissions, Nordic industry has launched pioneering efforts to promote the wider deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon Capture and Reuse (CCR). Industry is…

By Páll Tómas Finnsson

Seeking to dramatically cut emissions, Nordic industry has launched pioneering efforts to promote the wider deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon Capture and Reuse (CCR). Industry is the second-largest source of emissions in the Nordic region at 28 per cent, and as many of these emissions are process-related, they can only be mitigated through large-scale implementation of CCS technologies.

 

CCS removes up to 90 per cent of industrial CO2

Shifting towards renewable energy sources will not deliver the necessary reductions in industrial emissions to stay within the two-degree scenario of the Paris Agreement, let alone the goal of keeping global warming below 1,5 degrees. Industrial process emissions released during the manufacturing of products such as steel, iron, aluminium and cement must also be mitigated.

“There’s a strong need for CCS technology in the region,” says Hans Jørgen Koch, Director of Nordic Energy Research. “There’s lot of energy intensive industry, such as iron and aluminium production and pulp and paper production. Even though these industries are mostly powered by clean energy, the industrial process itself emits greenhouse gasses.”

Koch says that Nordic policy makers, research and businesses are answering the call for new CCS technology. There are ongoing projects in Norway and Iceland, and Nordic Energy Research is currently running a research project called Negative CO2, addressing capture and storage of emissions from biomass burning.

According to Nordic Energy Technology Perspectives 2016, published by the IEA in cooperation with Nordic Energy Research, direct industrial CO2-intensity must be reduced by 60 per cent to achieve the Nordic carbon-neutral scenario presented in the report.

“It’s impossible to reach these climate objectives without CCS,” says Olav Øye, Senior Advisor on CO2 Capture and Storage at the Bellona Foundation in Norway. He explains that the CO2 can be captured from flue gases, such as from cement factories or from waste-to-energy incinerators, and then injected into suitable underground storage sites.

“Around 90 per cent of the CO2 from certain industrial sources can be removed with CCS technology.”

 

Norway could store all EU industrial emissions

The Netherlands recently introduced plans to capture and store around 18 million tons of CO2 per year from industry and two million tons from waste incineration. This means that one-third of the country’s emissions cuts by 2030 will come from capture and storage. A large CCS initiative is also under way in Norway, focusing on emissions from cement, waste incineration and production of ammonia, which is used in mineral fertilizers.

“The Norwegian Parliament has presented an ambition to set up at least one full-scale industrial CO2-capture facility by 2022, as well as infrastructure for transport and storage,” says Øye. He adds that Bellona’s hope is that the Nordic countries will join forces to establish a common Nordic CO2-infrastructure in the near future.

“Norwegian storage capacity exceeds by far the capture of industrial CO2 in the country,” he adds. “This means that industry emissions from countries like Sweden, Finland and Denmark could be captured, transported to Norway, and stored in the Norwegian continental shelf or the North Sea. In fact, Norwegian sites could hold decades’ worth of all European industrial emissions.”

Increased cross-border collaboration would also solve the biggest challenge of developing CCS in the region. Capital investment costs are high in comparison to solar power, wind energy and other smaller-scale climate mitigation technologies.

“Establishing a CCS infrastructure requires heavy investments and it’s unlikely that the investment costs can be borne by individual industries or even individual countries,” Koch explains. “Therefore, more countries must commit to collaboration on developing CCS technology and infrastructure.”

 

Oslo aims to capture over 350,000 tons of CO2

One of the companies involved in the Norwegian initiative is Fortum Oslo Varme, which produces and distributes renewable district heating in the Oslo region. Its waste-to-energy incinerator plant, Klemetsrud, is one of the largest land-based point sources of emissions in Norway, emitting approximately 400,000 tons of CO2 per year. This equals just over a tonne of CO2 per tonne of waste incinerated.

“The flue gas already undergoes a comprehensive cleaning process, where different types of gases and pollutants are removed from the smoke,” says Jannicke Gerner Bjerkås, Director of HR and Communications at Fortum Varme Oslo. “However, the CO2 isn’t removed in this process, and the question we asked ourselves was, why not?”

A feasibility study concluded that by building a CO2 cleaning facility, based on amine technology, Klemetsrud could capture 90 per cent of its CO2 emissions.

“This represents an enormous potential,” says Gerner Bjerkås, referring to existing waste incineration plants in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. “In addition, the EU has introduced restrictions on the landfill of waste, so EU countries are likely to build new waste incineration facilities in the coming years. By laying out the right policy framework for CO2 emissions from waste incineration, these facilities could be built with integrated carbon capture systems in the future.”

 

Fuel production from recycled CO2

Captured carbon emissions can also be reused. Carbon Recycling International (CRI) is an Icelandic company that has developed a technology for fuel production from captured CO2. Its technology platform is already industrially mature and the first production facility has been in operation since 2012.

CRI’s production plant in Iceland produces renewable methanol by capturing CO2 from the emissions of a geothermal power plant and reacting the gas with hydrogen, made by splitting water with electrolysis. The methanol can be used directly as fuel in traditional combustion engines as well as fuel cells that transform the methanol into electricity. All energy used in the production comes from renewable sources, i.e. hydro and geothermal power.

“Using fuel from CO2 captured from industry emissions instead of fossil fuels makes it possible to power cars, ships or airplanes with a liquid fuel without creating any net CO2 emissions,” says Benedikt Stefánsson, Business Development Manager at CRI. “The technology therefore represents an effective solution to reducing emissions from the transport sector, which currently accounts for around 40 per cent of all emissions in the Nordic region.”

 

On 15 November 2017, Nordic Energy Research is organising the side event Renewable energy for energy intensive industry – new technology options at the Nordic Pavilion at COP23 in Bonn. The event focuses on the ways in which energy-intensive industries can change production processes and shift from fossil-based energy to renewable energy sources. At the session, the IEA will present a new report, Renewable Energy for Industry – From green energy to green materials and fuels.

Early results from the implementation of Bio-CLC

The article “Negative CO2 Emissions with Chemical-Looping Combustion of Biomass – a Nordic Energy Research Flagship Project” by Anders Lyngfelt et al. presents some early results of this flagship project

The Nordic countries constitute a natural location for the development and deployment of Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Finland, Sweden and Denmark are world-leading with respect to heat and power generation from sustainable biomass. Norway is world-leading with respect to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The Nordic countries also have ambitious targets for reductions of their CO2 emissions, host leading technology providers, and have large biomass potential per capita. System studies suggest that bioenergy could be the single largest energy carrier in the Nordic countries by 2050.

Negative CO2 Emissions with Chemical Looping Combustion of Biomass is a multi-partner project with the goal to develop new technology that: i) enables CO2 capture and negative CO2 emissions at the lowest possible cost, ii) is able to produce power and steam for industrial and other applications, iii) utilizes Nordic expertise in fluidized bed technology and iv) has potential to achieve improved fuel utilization.

The technology capable of achieving these goals is Chemical-Looping Combustion of biomass (Bio-CLC).

The full article is available here.

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