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. 

Significant progress on chemical looping combustion of biomass

Representatives of the working packages of the NER Negative CO2 project had the opportunity to present their preliminary results during the flagship meeting at Chalmers University in Gothenburg

Gothenburg – A two-day meeting between the representatives of the Nordic Energy Research (NER) “Negative CO2” flagship project was held at Chalmers University on the 27th and 28th of April 2017.

Representatives of the working packages of the NER Negative CO2 project, who in turn represent various institutions from several Nordic countries, had the opportunity to present the results made within the working packages so far. Each of the partners from the eight working groups discussed the progress and findings of the project.

– The meeting was excellent, and gave us several interesting updates on a range of issues connected to, among others, oxygen carrier materials and flue gas treatment, according to Magnus Rydén of Chalmers University

Chemical Looping Combustion

The goal of the project is establish a full scale biomass power plant that employs the carbon capture technology Chemical Looping Combustion (CLC). This method allows for the capture of carbon dioxide using a much lower amount of energy compared to more conventional capture technologies. The combination of CLC with the usage of biomass (Bio-CLC) would allow for the storage of CO2 released when the biomass burnt (biogenic CO2). Thereby, the CO2 is actually removed from the atmosphere. Bio-CLC is therefore a carbon negative technology.

Significant progress has been made both with regards to technical findings and outreach in the timespan covering part of 2015 and all of 2016.

– The project is proceeding well and more or less according to the plans. Up to this point, the most interesting findings include the practical demonstration of chemical-looping combustion of biomass on different scales. This clearly verifies the feasibility of the concept, Rydén explained.

The project consists of the following eight work packages (WPs):

  • WP1 – Management and coordination (Chalmers)
  • WP2 – Pilot Plant Operation (SINTEF ER)
  • WP3 – Oxygen Carrier Materials (SINTEF MC)
  • WP4 – Flue Gas Treatment (Chalmers)
  • WP5 – Ash and corrosion issues (Åbo Akademi)
  • WP6 – Upscaling and implementation (VTT)
  • WP7 –Bio-CLC in a low-carbon Nordic energy system (VTT)
  • WP8 – Dissemination (Bellona)

Technical and cost estimation challenges

Aside from presenting all the progress that was made in the project so far, some challenges were also presented.

– Technical challenges with the project include the use of highly volatile fuel in fluidized bed reactors and determining what the effects of biomass ash are on the oxygen carrier particles. It is also a challenge to do a reliable cost estimation that would ensure determining what kind of political and economic incentives would be needed to allow for large-scale implementation in the Nordic countries, Rydén said.

Article on Chemical-Looping Combustion in TU

The Norwegian scientific journal «Teknisk Ukeblad» (TU) reports on the advantages of Chemical-Looping Combustion (CLC) in the effort to find cost-effective and efficient methods of capturing industrial CO2

In the article (Norwegian) published on 30 January 2017, researcher at Sintef Energi Øyvind Langørgen explains that CLC is a technology currently tested in the energy laboratory at Sintef. A major advantage of this method compared to other technologies is that this capture technology both has the highest potential with regards to energy efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The principle of CLC is that the burning process is divided into two parts with one air reactor and one fuel reactor. Metal-oxide particles are transported in a loop between the two reactors, transporting oxygen from the air reactor to the fuel reactor, after which it travels back to the air reactor to pick up more oxygen.

Langørgen explains that the separation of oxygen from the air in the air reactor is an essential element of CLC as the exhaust from the fuel reactor exclusively consists of CO2 and steam. These can be separated without much difficulty.

This video by Sintef gives a brief introduction on Chemical-Looping Combustion.

Negative CO2: How does Chemical-Looping Combustion work?

Anders Lyngfelt (Chalmers University Gothenburg) presents a cost-effective and energy-efficient technology to capture CO2 from industrial complexes: Chemical-Looping Combustion

Sequestering captured industrial CO2  in suitable geological formations (Carbon Capture and Storage, CCS) is a necessary step in the attempt to reach the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. Anders Lyngfelt (Chalmers University Gothenburg) presents a cost-effective and energy-efficient technology to capture CO2 from industrial complexes: Chemical-Looping Combustion.

Significant quantities of CO2 can be prevented from entering the atmosphere, where it contributes to to global climate change. Although CCS has the potential to make a significant impact on the fight against climate change, the capture, transport, and storage of CO2 is regarded by some as too energy consuming and too costly.

Anders Lyngfelt presents Chemical-Looping Combustion (CLC) as a cost-effective and energy-efficient technology for capturing industrial CO2.

Not only is CLC suitable for the capture of fossil carbon-dioxide, it is also suitable for capturing CO2 from biomass. Bio-CLC, and subsequent permanent storage of CO2, would allow for an economically beneficial and energy-efficient avenue to withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale.

His presentation can be accessed here: Presentation “Options for CLC” by Anders Lyngfelt.

An introductory video on CLC is accessible here.

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