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. 

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.

Myths and facts about negative emissions

Some argue that developing carbon negative technologies gives us permission to slack away, but we are actually slacking away if we do not consider CO2 removal

Negative emissions: Myths and Facts

Some skeptics to the development of carbon negative technologies argue that they would allow us to hold off on real climate-saving hard work for later. But putting effective CO2-negative climate mitigation strategies on the shelf is not an option  if we want to have a gradual shift from our current lifestyle to a low-carbon future.

If we don’t want to passively accept climate change by waiting until its too late, what are our options?

Bio-CCS through Chemical-looping combustion can be a way out.

The natural carbon absorbers

Since long before humans tipped the carbon balance, our planet has had natural mechanisms taking care of additional emissions in the atmosphere. Currently, a big piece of the CO2 pie is stored in the natural carbon sinks of the planet. One of those carbon absorbing sinks are forests that absorb  CO2 when they grow.

There are many advantages the afforestation or reforestation of large areas of land. Not only does this decrease the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, but there are also benefits to the environment such as an increase in biodiversity or the prevention of erosion.

Bhutan, the only carbon negative country in the world, is for a large part covered in woods that enable it to store more CO2 than it emits. The tiny kingdom in the Himalayas might be a poster child for a carbon negative lifestyle, but it certainly doesn’t compensate for the industrialized realities elsewhere on the planet. Realistically, industrial, or even post-industrial economies are ages away from completely decarbonizing like Bhutan.

As a climate measure, trees cannot compensate for the continuing and growing CO2 emissions from industries. Additionally, they can only be a permanent carbon sink if the forests are never burnt or used. Thus, as beneficial as they are, trees can’t be our only option.

CO2: The needle in a haystack

There are several other ways to reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Direct Air Capture (DAC) mimics trees by filtering CO2 from ambient air. Yet this process, unlike the natural one, needs vast amounts of energy around the clock to stay operational.

CO2 makes up only about 0.03% of the air we breathe; due to its low concentration, pulling it out of the atmosphere is like pulling a needle out of a haystack.  You need a massive magnet with a substantial price tag to pull that needle out; the renewable energy currently available is still in short supply and there’s more efficient ways of using it to decarbonize.

Air capture is still an expensive, energy laden way of getting CO2 out of its usual cycle. In addition to those disadvantages, the technology can only be called carbon negative if it’s coupled with permanent CO2 storage and the exclusive use of renewable energy – otherwise, the same CO2 merely ends up in the air (twice) and uses fossil energy sources to do so.

Capturing the CO2 that would otherwise be released and dispersed into the air from point sources is a much more efficient way of approaching the problem. It is also cheaper, costing about 30 times less than direct air capture. If some of the CO2 captured originates from organic material, the process becomes carbon negative. Coupled with biological carbon absorbers, capturing and storing CO2 from concentrated sources is one of the vital pieces of the puzzle for a low-carbon future. There are some things, however, to keep in mind.

Think twice before burning

Although CO2 emitted from industrial facilities using biomass, such as paper factories and waste incineration plants, can be captured and stored to achieve negative emissions, bioenergy production with CCS (BECCS) has gotten much attention.

Biomass is a scarce resource that should be used wisely. By indirectly causing land use change, the rapeseed and palm biomass production currently causes more emissions than it cuts. The biomass we use needs to thrive on as little resources as possible and most of the first-generation biofuels that compete with food production don’t make that cut.

Using technologies that efficiently use sustainable biomass, such as Chemical-looping combustion (Bio-CLC), energy and negative emissions can be produced efficiently and at a relatively low cost.

Beyond trees, there are other organisms that photosynthesise without using that many resources along the way. Algae, for example, can thrive in a small area with minimal resource input. Exploring the sustainable growth of biomass will be crucial in developing sustainable Bio-CCS systems that will be able to both provide energy and remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

However, more efficient biomass production does not mean that it can be used squandered. In fact, the limited biomass availability should only encourage the simultaneous the development of other climate change solutions, such as CCS, improved energy efficiency and electrification.

NER Negative CO2 Newsletter October 2017

This is the third edition of the newsletter of The Nordic Energy Research Flagship Project “Negative CO2 Emissions with Chemical Looping Combustion of Biomass”

This edition covers the results and progress of the project in the period from September 2016 to September 2017.

 

Click here for the NER Negative CO2 newsletter 3 – Oktober 2017

or

Haven’t heard about CO2 capture and storage before? Click here for an introduction.

 

NER Negative CO2

The NER Negative CO2 project combines technologies and research that will be help us reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere effectively and at a low cost. To achieve the climate goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, we need to effectively stop any and all emissions of CO2 where possible, and compensate for emissions we cannot avoid (for instance from agriculture).

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the necessary measures include: the uptake of renewable energy, electrification, and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). These solutions alone will, however, not be enough. We need to decrease the amount of CO2 that is already present in the atmosphere. We need large-scale negative emissions.

In the Nordic countries, there is a large potential for the capture and permanent geological storage of CO2 from biomass. Norway has 20 years of experience in full-scale CO2 storage, and is planning for a large-scale CO2 transport and storage infrastructure ready by 2022 that could receive CO2 northern and Western Europe. Sweden and Finland have large point source emissions of CO2 from biomass.  

 

Chemical Looping Combustion

Chemical Looping Combustion (CLC) is a technology able to capture CO2 from energy production at relatively low cost and with a large efficiency. While conventional combustors burn fuel with ambient air, containing the needed oxygen as well as a lot of nitrogen, CLC installations burn fuel with solid metal oxide particles.

When the fuel reacts with these particles, which are called the oxygen carriers, the oxygen is transferred to the fuel giving the same combustion products as normal combustion. These are CO2 and water vapor. The important difference is that the combustion products leave the so-called fuel reactor without any of the nitrogen in the air, and when the gas is cooled, the water vapor condenses resulting in an essentially pure CO2 stream. At this is the important point, this can be done without any costly and energy demanding gas separation. Because the costly gas separation can be avoided, CLC is expected to reduce the cost of CO2 capture dramatically.

The aim of the project is to take the technology to the next level in its development by upscaling it to a semi-commercial scale.

Chemical-Looping Combustion gains momentum in the EU

In a recent article by the European Commission, attention was given to Chemical-Looping Combustion as a measure to efficiently decarbonise the power production and process industry in the EU

It is encouraging that actors in the European Union are becoming aware of these types of technologies that, in combination with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) are essential tools in combating climate change.

Natural gas, although it emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than other fossil fuels, contributes to global climate change.

It does, however, not seem likely that all natural gas power plants will be replaced in favor of renewable energy in the near future. The capture, transportation and permanent geological storage of the CO2 produced in this process is necessary to make gas power plants carbon neutral. This means that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is not, or to a very little extent, affected by this production of power.

Bio-CLC in the EU

An important aspect of the usage of CLC is that it does not curtail production and economic growth, and even has the potential to support the growth of employment by contributing to increasing green jobs.

The potential of CLC to withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere is one of its most significant qualities. Whereas the application of CLC on gas power plants prevents fossil CO2 from entering the atmosphere, the sequestration of CO2 emitted if biomass is used effectively reduced the amount of atmospheric CO2. The permanent storage of biogenic CO2 can thus be seen as negative emissions.

The Negative CO2 project is a concrete example of real steps taken in the fight against climate change and the creation of green jobs that the European Union could benefit from in the effort to reach its own goals.

 

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