The problem with carbon capture and storage (CCS)

Posted by bex — 3 January 2008 at 3:50pm - Comments

E.ON is arguing for its new coal plant on the basis that it will include carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. So, is CCS is a silver bullet? Or is it just another false solution, touted by an industry desperately trying to stay relevant in a carbon constrained world?

CCS is a means of separating out carbon dioxide when burning fossil fuels, and then dumping it - underground, or else at or under the sea bed.

CCS isn't commercially viable; there are no commercially operating CCS plants in the world. And for all the industry's obfuscation, the new plant at Kingsnorth won't be able to capture and store carbon; it will just be ready to incorporate CCS should the technology ever become viable in the future.

Whether this will ever happen is unknowable. A UN report predicts that CCS won't be able to play any significant role for decades, and the bulk of its deployment would take place in the second half of this century - and even then only if the appropriate subsidy mechanisms and policy drivers are put in place.

Even Chancellor Alistair Darling - a supporter of coal - admits that CCS "may never work". "Yes, carbon capture and storage, if it can be developed, would help," he said. "But at this stage we cannot be certain of that. There is no commercial scale operation of CCS on power generation anywhere in the world."

So E.ON wants to build a plant that will pump out as much CO2 as thirty developing countries, year on year, in the hope that, at some unspecified point in the future, CCS technology will become viable. As Monbiot says: "We could be stuck with a new generation of coal-burning power stations, approved on the basis of a promise that never materialises, which commit us to massive emissions for 40 years."

To avoid a climate crisis, the UN says we have less than 100 months to peak in emissions and then start drastically reducing them. Given this urgency, it seems common sense that any solutions to climate change needs to be ready for deployment very quickly.

And plenty of ready-to-go solutions do exist: energy efficiency, combined heat and power, wind, wave, tidal and solar power, for example. All that's lacking is the political will to implement them - and investing money, time and political will in CCS, like that other false solution, is only going to undermine the real solutions we already have.

CSS is being used as a justification to keep building inefficient, poorly constructed coal fired power stations - the dirtiest possible way of producing electricity ever invented. Join our campaign against Kingsnorth and tell Gordon Brown not to believe the hype on "cleaner coal", and to say no to new coal in the UK.

The world is right to keep a clear distance from CCS.

My argument is a simple.

1. Out of sight out of mind attitude.

2. You only bury death.

google the following to see the possible outcome:

"Lake overturn Cameroon 1986"

Kingsworth would be far better designed if it incorporated the most basic of ideas.

Recycle-Recycle-Recycle

Co2 is the fuel of the future and the technology exists in Britain today to achieve it.

www.maesanturio.org

Regards
Maes Anturio

The commercial viability of CCS is mainly dependent on the cost of carbon emissions: set the price of carbon emissions high enough and it will be commercially viable. Strangely the move towards putting a cost on carbon emissions has resulted in considerable commercial interest in CCS for power plants. The technical risks vary with technology, but some of the proposed technologies are all ready used (commercially) in other industries; albeit on a smaller scale (wikipedia says the largest current plants are used for enhanced oil recovery).

I don't know which UN report you are referring too, but the UN's IPCC's report on CCS can be found at:

www.mnp.nl/ipcc/pages_media/SRCCS-final/IPCC
SpecialReportonCarbondioxideCaptureandStorage.htm

To quote from the summary of this report:

"the potential of CO2 capture and storage is considerable, and the costs for mitigating climate change can be decreased compared to strategies where only other climate change mitigation options are considered."

As the report assumes it will take a while for the technologies to be scaled up and optimised, I suspect your statement that "CCS won't be able to play a significant role for decades" is not at odds with the report, but only if you consider things on a global scale.

I'm afraid the only practical alternatives to building new coal stations is to build even more gas stations or to stop the closure process currently threatening the many of the older coal and oil power stations.

Hi Simrek,

In response to your comment - you might be interested in what the Energy Minister, John Hutton, said about CCS in Parliament today:

"By 2050 it is possible that most new coal-fired power stations will be able to deploy CCS technology…However, CCS is as yet unproven technology and we have to acknowledge there is some risk that safe and reliable CCS for power generation might not be proven or deployable at scale and at reasonable costs. This could happen if the projected costs turn out to be too high or if it proves to be difficult to develop safe ways to transport and store CO2."

So in a nutshell - by 2050, maybe, but the technology is still fraught with uncertainties.

Even the coal industry thinks the technology won’t be up and running and commercially viable until at least 2020!

Why would you focus on that when real, tried-and-tested technologies like CHP, renewables and efficiency can do it cheaper, quicker and guarantee both energy security and emissions reductions? Indeed, they’re already doing so in Scandinavia.

With UN scientists’ warnings that the global tipping point is probably due in 2015 – i.e. less than 100 months away – we can’t afford to gamble the world on a technology that may or may not work in years to come. We cannot allow coal generation and the millions of tonnes of CO2 that would bring to go on unabated between now and then.

Cheers – Joss

Does Greenpeace take climate change serious? Or is it just ignorant? Or both? One thing is certain, it completely misses the point on CCS.

As we all know, CCS can be applied to biomass to yield *negative emissions* energy - the only energy system capable of doing this.

All other energy systems, including renewables and nuclear are carbon positive:

-coal, gas: +300 to 850 grams of CO2/kWh of electricity
-coal + CCS: +50 gCO2/kWh
-solar: +50 gCO2/kWh
-wind, hydro, biomass, nuclear: +30 to 50gCO2/kWh
-biomass+CCS: -1030gCO2/kWh - yes, *minus*

If Greenpeace were to take climate change seriously, it would be pushing negative emissions bioenergy.

With such "bio-energy with carbon storage" systems, CCS doesn't have to be 100% fail-proof, because if any CO2 were to leak, it would not contribute to atmospheric CO2 levels, since the CO2 is biogenic.

Scientists have calculated that this most radical and efficient tool in the fight against climate change, if applied on a large scale, can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels by mid-century. You can even cool the planet with it.

One can only wonder why Greenpeace never mentions this radical and cost-effective technology. Perhaps it doesn't because it is only looking for criticism and not for solutions. This would be regrettable.

In any case, we will publish an article at our website showing that Greenpeace once again misses the point of CCS and doesn't take climate change all that serious.

Best regards,
Jonas Van Den Berg
Biopact

Its strange but I’ve just been reading Hutton’s statement at http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2238711,00.html
and to quote from this:

“The government is also committed to funding one of the world's first commercial-scale demonstrations of carbon capture and storage [CCS]. CCS is a technology that has the potential to make a critical contribution to tackling climate change.”

This sounds at odds to your quote so I tried to find it on Hansard in order to understand the context I failed to spot it on a quick skim through the energy debate but I’m sure you can enlighten me with a suitable reference.

Going through your “tried and tested” technologies can I ask the following?

For CHP I assume you mean district scale domestic CHP: micro CHP can hardly be described as tried and tested, whilst industrial CHP is invariably being implemented wherever it is economic. District heating has been suggested for various new developments and could well happen, especially if OFGEM are given a role to encourage it. However retrofitting to existing communities is a little more problematic: Assuming the argument for its installation had been won and the operator was in a legal position to install the plant, what would be the cost of installation to a medium sized city, how long would it take to install the pipe work and how quickly do you see the residents changing over to district heating from their current systems?

If you were to repeat this across the whole country, what would be the total cost of installing all the systems (they are normally closed loop systems so require both a pipe out and back), how long would it take for it all to be installed and where would all the manpower come from? Considering the potential for disruption, I‘m far from convinced it would have popular support; it would be stuck at the planning stage for years whilst every self interest group has their say.

Renewables, or at least wind, is a commercial reality thanks to subsidies. In recent years hundreds of MW of capacity has been installed and by all accounts the UK is one of the most attractive (financially) places to build wind turbines. In addition I gather the rate development of wind power has continually broken all forecasts; I think something like 25% more capacity was installed last year than the year before. However there is no guarantee when the wind will blow. If one were to replace one existing thermal power generating unit (lets say a 400MW coal unit only used to generate electricity at peak times), what is the minimum number of MW of wind energy would you need to install to ensure the same level of security of supply?

Solar and wave energy have similar issues with security of supply as wind, and I would not say either was tried and tested on a utility scale (I would say that commercially both are behind CCS). Tidal power is more expensive than wind power but has the advantage of being predictable. Potentially the energy could be stored to provide a secure supply, but the storage costs are prohibitive.

Energy efficiency is a nice idea, but it results in a one-off reduction in demand that can only be repeated if things degrade to an inefficient state or if there is a major technology breakthrough. The latter is only likely if one assumes economic growth, so I see little chance of any significant reduction in the overall demand for electricity. If anything the demand for electricity is liable to increase, especially if there is a move towards more electric vehicles or it is used to generate hydrogen fuel.

So I’d seriously question what assumptions you make for the timescales and cost of CHP, wind power is a product of the trade of Renewable Obligation Certificates, the other renewable technologies are far from “tried and tested” whilst efficiency improvements are unlikely to reduce the demand for electricity. Perhaps this is why the government is backing CCS?

Looking at Jonas’s comment, you give some very interesting figures. My suspicion is that Greenpeace has a dislike of big business. CCS is only really viable on larger plants. Larger plants require big business. Therefore Greenpeace has an issue.

Fortunately biomass can also take advantage of a biased electricity market. Otherwise the proposed Blackburn Meadows plant (£60M for a 25MW plant), would have no hope when the Isle of Grain gas CHP plant is given a price tag of £500M for 1275MW (source for both, EON website). I’m sure biomass plants can be scaled up to an extent, but only if there is a guaranteed fuel source. Larger plants are the obvious choice for early CCS developments. Biomass plants are a latter possibility, but would probably require integration with other infrastructure when it comes to the storage facilities.

Please be aware that Mr, Ian Houston was removed as a
director of Maes Anturio on 10.11.07. He does not represent the views or future of this company in any way.

Regards Mr, J D Jones(Director)

Carbon capture (from the stack gas of a petrochemical plant, oil refinery, oil/ coal fired power station, etc.) would require the construction of an amine-scrubber or other absorption process plant. That is, a chemical plant add-on. The CO2 removal process itself would consume circa 25% of the electricity output of the coal-fired power station, for a CO2 removal percentage of 80%. Higher removal percentate = higher power demand.
Once captured as "fairly pure" CO2, it would have to be compressed up to the point of liquefaction, consuming high capital costs and power consumptions, implying that, if CCS was to be used in a widespread way, there would need to be an increased number of power stations to compensate for the power consumption of CCS. Put it another way, if the generation efficiency of a standard power station is 35%, then the efficiency of one retrofitted with CCS would be circa 24%.
Then we have all the expensive pipework for CO2 delivery to "depleted" oil and/ or gas reservoirs, the pumping station costs and power consumptions, the shore installations and their costs, and the cost of operating maintaining, and powering the North Sea/ Sothern sector platforms for downhole CO2 application.
There might be some "sources" of CO2 recovery close to e.g southern sector fields and these may offer moderate costs for CO2 disposal (i.e. capture), like in the USA where CO2 is often used for enhanced oil recovery using cheap naturally-occurring CO2 fed into onland reservoirs in Texas, but any major use of CCS in the UK would cause the production cost of electricity to rise by 50% or more.
Same comment applies to onland disposal routes in Russia, Germany, Australia, etc.
Talk about fuel poverty for the masses and the retired - we ain't heard nothing yet!
The talk about CCS merely delays the time when we'll have to install CHP and IGCC power stations, to ensure continuity of supply viz a viz wind-power and solar etc.
Primarily, we'll have to reduce power consumptions by eliminating free bus travel, reducing food waste in supermarkets, encouraging people to wear sufficient clothing at home during winter, rationing airline travel, developing employment close to where people live, etc.
regards

Indeed one of the often overlooked problems is that a large number of are needed to meet these goals. Ultimately we need to keeping pushing for solar and other alternate forms of energy, no matter how difficult they might be to implement.

The world is right to keep a clear distance from CCS. My argument is a simple. 1. Out of sight out of mind attitude. 2. You only bury death. google the following to see the possible outcome: "Lake overturn Cameroon 1986" Kingsworth would be far better designed if it incorporated the most basic of ideas. Recycle-Recycle-Recycle Co2 is the fuel of the future and the technology exists in Britain today to achieve it. www.maesanturio.org Regards Maes Anturio

The commercial viability of CCS is mainly dependent on the cost of carbon emissions: set the price of carbon emissions high enough and it will be commercially viable. Strangely the move towards putting a cost on carbon emissions has resulted in considerable commercial interest in CCS for power plants. The technical risks vary with technology, but some of the proposed technologies are all ready used (commercially) in other industries; albeit on a smaller scale (wikipedia says the largest current plants are used for enhanced oil recovery). I don't know which UN report you are referring too, but the UN's IPCC's report on CCS can be found at: www.mnp.nl/ipcc/pages_media/SRCCS-final/IPCC SpecialReportonCarbondioxideCaptureandStorage.htm To quote from the summary of this report: "the potential of CO2 capture and storage is considerable, and the costs for mitigating climate change can be decreased compared to strategies where only other climate change mitigation options are considered." As the report assumes it will take a while for the technologies to be scaled up and optimised, I suspect your statement that "CCS won't be able to play a significant role for decades" is not at odds with the report, but only if you consider things on a global scale. I'm afraid the only practical alternatives to building new coal stations is to build even more gas stations or to stop the closure process currently threatening the many of the older coal and oil power stations.

Hi Simrek, In response to your comment - you might be interested in what the Energy Minister, John Hutton, said about CCS in Parliament today: "By 2050 it is possible that most new coal-fired power stations will be able to deploy CCS technology…However, CCS is as yet unproven technology and we have to acknowledge there is some risk that safe and reliable CCS for power generation might not be proven or deployable at scale and at reasonable costs. This could happen if the projected costs turn out to be too high or if it proves to be difficult to develop safe ways to transport and store CO2." So in a nutshell - by 2050, maybe, but the technology is still fraught with uncertainties. Even the coal industry thinks the technology won’t be up and running and commercially viable until at least 2020! Why would you focus on that when real, tried-and-tested technologies like CHP, renewables and efficiency can do it cheaper, quicker and guarantee both energy security and emissions reductions? Indeed, they’re already doing so in Scandinavia. With UN scientists’ warnings that the global tipping point is probably due in 2015 – i.e. less than 100 months away – we can’t afford to gamble the world on a technology that may or may not work in years to come. We cannot allow coal generation and the millions of tonnes of CO2 that would bring to go on unabated between now and then. Cheers – Joss

Does Greenpeace take climate change serious? Or is it just ignorant? Or both? One thing is certain, it completely misses the point on CCS. As we all know, CCS can be applied to biomass to yield *negative emissions* energy - the only energy system capable of doing this. All other energy systems, including renewables and nuclear are carbon positive: -coal, gas: +300 to 850 grams of CO2/kWh of electricity -coal + CCS: +50 gCO2/kWh -solar: +50 gCO2/kWh -wind, hydro, biomass, nuclear: +30 to 50gCO2/kWh -biomass+CCS: -1030gCO2/kWh - yes, *minus* If Greenpeace were to take climate change seriously, it would be pushing negative emissions bioenergy. With such "bio-energy with carbon storage" systems, CCS doesn't have to be 100% fail-proof, because if any CO2 were to leak, it would not contribute to atmospheric CO2 levels, since the CO2 is biogenic. Scientists have calculated that this most radical and efficient tool in the fight against climate change, if applied on a large scale, can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels by mid-century. You can even cool the planet with it. One can only wonder why Greenpeace never mentions this radical and cost-effective technology. Perhaps it doesn't because it is only looking for criticism and not for solutions. This would be regrettable. In any case, we will publish an article at our website showing that Greenpeace once again misses the point of CCS and doesn't take climate change all that serious. Best regards, Jonas Van Den Berg Biopact

Its strange but I’ve just been reading Hutton’s statement at http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2238711,00.html and to quote from this: “The government is also committed to funding one of the world's first commercial-scale demonstrations of carbon capture and storage [CCS]. CCS is a technology that has the potential to make a critical contribution to tackling climate change.” This sounds at odds to your quote so I tried to find it on Hansard in order to understand the context I failed to spot it on a quick skim through the energy debate but I’m sure you can enlighten me with a suitable reference. Going through your “tried and tested” technologies can I ask the following? For CHP I assume you mean district scale domestic CHP: micro CHP can hardly be described as tried and tested, whilst industrial CHP is invariably being implemented wherever it is economic. District heating has been suggested for various new developments and could well happen, especially if OFGEM are given a role to encourage it. However retrofitting to existing communities is a little more problematic: Assuming the argument for its installation had been won and the operator was in a legal position to install the plant, what would be the cost of installation to a medium sized city, how long would it take to install the pipe work and how quickly do you see the residents changing over to district heating from their current systems? If you were to repeat this across the whole country, what would be the total cost of installing all the systems (they are normally closed loop systems so require both a pipe out and back), how long would it take for it all to be installed and where would all the manpower come from? Considering the potential for disruption, I‘m far from convinced it would have popular support; it would be stuck at the planning stage for years whilst every self interest group has their say. Renewables, or at least wind, is a commercial reality thanks to subsidies. In recent years hundreds of MW of capacity has been installed and by all accounts the UK is one of the most attractive (financially) places to build wind turbines. In addition I gather the rate development of wind power has continually broken all forecasts; I think something like 25% more capacity was installed last year than the year before. However there is no guarantee when the wind will blow. If one were to replace one existing thermal power generating unit (lets say a 400MW coal unit only used to generate electricity at peak times), what is the minimum number of MW of wind energy would you need to install to ensure the same level of security of supply? Solar and wave energy have similar issues with security of supply as wind, and I would not say either was tried and tested on a utility scale (I would say that commercially both are behind CCS). Tidal power is more expensive than wind power but has the advantage of being predictable. Potentially the energy could be stored to provide a secure supply, but the storage costs are prohibitive. Energy efficiency is a nice idea, but it results in a one-off reduction in demand that can only be repeated if things degrade to an inefficient state or if there is a major technology breakthrough. The latter is only likely if one assumes economic growth, so I see little chance of any significant reduction in the overall demand for electricity. If anything the demand for electricity is liable to increase, especially if there is a move towards more electric vehicles or it is used to generate hydrogen fuel. So I’d seriously question what assumptions you make for the timescales and cost of CHP, wind power is a product of the trade of Renewable Obligation Certificates, the other renewable technologies are far from “tried and tested” whilst efficiency improvements are unlikely to reduce the demand for electricity. Perhaps this is why the government is backing CCS? Looking at Jonas’s comment, you give some very interesting figures. My suspicion is that Greenpeace has a dislike of big business. CCS is only really viable on larger plants. Larger plants require big business. Therefore Greenpeace has an issue. Fortunately biomass can also take advantage of a biased electricity market. Otherwise the proposed Blackburn Meadows plant (£60M for a 25MW plant), would have no hope when the Isle of Grain gas CHP plant is given a price tag of £500M for 1275MW (source for both, EON website). I’m sure biomass plants can be scaled up to an extent, but only if there is a guaranteed fuel source. Larger plants are the obvious choice for early CCS developments. Biomass plants are a latter possibility, but would probably require integration with other infrastructure when it comes to the storage facilities.

Please be aware that Mr, Ian Houston was removed as a director of Maes Anturio on 10.11.07. He does not represent the views or future of this company in any way. Regards Mr, J D Jones(Director)

Carbon capture (from the stack gas of a petrochemical plant, oil refinery, oil/ coal fired power station, etc.) would require the construction of an amine-scrubber or other absorption process plant. That is, a chemical plant add-on. The CO2 removal process itself would consume circa 25% of the electricity output of the coal-fired power station, for a CO2 removal percentage of 80%. Higher removal percentate = higher power demand. Once captured as "fairly pure" CO2, it would have to be compressed up to the point of liquefaction, consuming high capital costs and power consumptions, implying that, if CCS was to be used in a widespread way, there would need to be an increased number of power stations to compensate for the power consumption of CCS. Put it another way, if the generation efficiency of a standard power station is 35%, then the efficiency of one retrofitted with CCS would be circa 24%. Then we have all the expensive pipework for CO2 delivery to "depleted" oil and/ or gas reservoirs, the pumping station costs and power consumptions, the shore installations and their costs, and the cost of operating maintaining, and powering the North Sea/ Sothern sector platforms for downhole CO2 application. There might be some "sources" of CO2 recovery close to e.g southern sector fields and these may offer moderate costs for CO2 disposal (i.e. capture), like in the USA where CO2 is often used for enhanced oil recovery using cheap naturally-occurring CO2 fed into onland reservoirs in Texas, but any major use of CCS in the UK would cause the production cost of electricity to rise by 50% or more. Same comment applies to onland disposal routes in Russia, Germany, Australia, etc. Talk about fuel poverty for the masses and the retired - we ain't heard nothing yet! The talk about CCS merely delays the time when we'll have to install CHP and IGCC power stations, to ensure continuity of supply viz a viz wind-power and solar etc. Primarily, we'll have to reduce power consumptions by eliminating free bus travel, reducing food waste in supermarkets, encouraging people to wear sufficient clothing at home during winter, rationing airline travel, developing employment close to where people live, etc. regards

Indeed one of the often overlooked problems is that a large number of are needed to meet these goals. Ultimately we need to keeping pushing for solar and other alternate forms of energy, no matter how difficult they might be to implement.

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