Insights and Commentaries

Insights and Commentaries

Which low carbon technology is now a reality?

15th March 2015

Topic(s): Capacity development, Carbon capture, Economics, Engineering and project delivery, law and regulation, Policy, Public engagement, use and storage (CCUS)

With fossil fuels expected to supply over 70% of the world's energy needs by 2040, we face some urgent questions: where should efforts be focused in reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Which technologies hold the most promise? There are a range of low-carbon solutions and given the challenge, we will need them all. We hear a lot about the advances being made by renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydro-electricity and these are certainly valuable technologies in combating climate change. But how can we really make a major impact in reducing carbon emissions from large power plants and industrial facilities? Enter carbon capture and storage - or CCS - a technology that captures carbon dioxide from fossil fuel production and permanently stores it underground.

Final calibration on the sulphur dioxide stripper of the Saskpower Boundary Dam CCS project - Image supplied by Saskpower

In November 2014 the Global CCS Institute released its flagship publication – the annual Global Status of CCS report. This comprehensive annual update is the pre-eminent source of information on the development of CCS around the world. A lot of work went into updating information in the report, in collaboration with the CCS industry, as there had been quite significant changes to the CCS landscape in the preceding 12 months. This included the launch of a large-scale CCS project in the power sector and the beginning of construction of the world’s first large-scale CCS project in the iron and steel sector.

The world’s first large-scale CCS project in the power sector

Large-scale CCS is now a reality in the power sector with the October 2014 launch of the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Sequestration Demonstration Project in Saskatchewan, Canada. Boundary Dam is the first commercial CCS plant in the power sector, removing 90 per cent of the CO2 produced by electricity generation from lignite coal at Production Unit No.3 of the SaskPower facility. The captured CO2 is primarily used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) at the nearby Weyburn oil field, although amounts are also to be stored in deep geological formations at the Aquistore site. The success of the Boundary Dam project and the progression of additional projects through planning and construction, indicates that CCS technologies for application in the power sector are 'market ready'.

A family of technologies for a range of industrial applications

The next 18-24 months will see CCS deployed across a range of industries and storage types. A further two large-scale CCS power projects are in construction in the US - the Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi and the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project in Texas. Both projects are expected to be operational in 2016. Also in the US, the Illinois Industrial CCS project slated for launch later this year will capture CO2 from the Archer Daniels Midland corn-to-ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois for storage in an onshore deep saline formation. The Abu Dhabi CCS project in the United Arab Emirates is under construction and from 2016 will provide the world’s first large-scale demonstration of CO2 capture from iron and steel production.

In addition to the 22 large-scale CCS projects currently in operation or construction around the world, 14 projects are in advanced stages of planning, many of which are likely to be in a position to make a final investment decision over the coming year. Together this group of projects covers a range of applications for CCS and could extend to around ten the number of large-scale CCS projects operating in the power sector by the end of the decade. Their progression to operation would add experience in the dedicated geological storage of CO2 and see operational large-scale CCS activity extend to China for the first time.

2014 saw commercial deployment in the power sector become a reality and we can look forward to a further expansion across a diverse range of industries in the coming years.

The coming year

The Global CCS Institute continues to cover developments in CCS with up-to-date information, expert insights, workshops, media releases and online webinars. We strive to make CCS industry information easily accessible and encourage you to engage with us via our website and regular publications.

For detailed information on large-scale CCS projects please visit our online projects page, which you can browse or search for projects based on stage, region, industry or capture, transport and storage type. For the first time the Institute’s website contains project descriptions for around 40 lesser scale ‘notable’ CCS projects, of which four Japanese 'notable' projects were the key focus of a chapter in the Global Status of CCS report. For ongoing expert information visit our Insights page, which is regularly updated with articles from experts in carbon capture and storage, public engagement, legal issues and policy developments.

To join in the discussion you can attend meetings and workshops around the world, and participate in online webinars where you will have the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of a range of experts. Visit our Events page to see upcoming meetings, conferences, workshops and webinars.

Finally, for a range of up-to-date news and more detailed information, visit our news and publications sections.

We look forward to covering this exciting period in the development of CCS and providing you with the latest information and important issues for the sector.

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