Oct 2, 2014

Canadian Carbon Capture Project Could Allow for Cleaner Utilization of Fossil Fuels

Green Tech
3 min
Today, the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project was launched at a coal-fired power plant in Canada. The project is being closely...

Today, the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project was launched at a coal-fired power plant in Canada. The project is being closely watched, as it’s expected to reduce the plants carbon emissions by 90 percent.

The CCS unit is at the Boundary Dam power plant in Estevan, Saskatchewan and was formally commissioned after a 4-year, $1.21 billion retrofit. According to the CCS’s installer, SaskPower, the unit is designed to reduce 1 million tons of the annual carbon dioxide emissions from the dam when it reaches full operating capacity later this year.

The majority of the carbon will be purchased by Cenovus Energy Inc., Canada’s second largest oil and gas producer. It will then in turn be used for enhanced oil recovery.

There are a lot of eyes trained on the project and various governments and industries are waiting to see if the project is a success.

There are plenty of voices already calling the project a success, as it’s being viewed as a way for companies reliant on fossil fuel generation a cleaner way to do business. Some are also viewing it as a working example of why they should invest in CCS technology.

“Finally, people cannot say that this is unproven technology,” Frederic Hauge, head of Norwegian environmental group Bellona, said. “It will be much harder to reach climate targets without CCS. We shouldn't take the chance that we can combat global warming without CCS.”

Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, believes that this is answer the industry has been looking for.

“CCS is the only known technology that will enable us to continue to use fossil fuels and also de-carbonize the energy sector,” she said. “As fossil fuel consumption is expected to continue for decades, deployment of CCS is essential.”

Of course, not everyone is so convinced it’s the right solution.

The Sierra Club of Canada is critical of the usage of carbon captured for enhanced oil recovery.

“It's a propaganda move to appear to be taking action on climate change when in reality it is actually furthering the interests of oil,” John Bennett, Sierra Club Canada Executive Director, said.

Beyond environmental concerns, there are those who are worried about the high costs of a CCS being a barrier to their further implementation.

“Boundary Dam Unit #3 [the plant fitted with the CCS] has cost much more than the U.S. $350 million typical for an advanced coal-fired plant of its size, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration,” John Kemp, market analyst at Reuters, writes. “First-of-a-kind (FOAK) systems are always expensive, but widespread commercial deployment will depend on getting CCS costs down by harnessing what is learned from such projects.”

And that, of course, is exactly what SaskPower is hoping for.

“Carbon capture and storage technology is still being researched and perfected,” Tyler Hopson, a SaskPower spokesman, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg. “SaskPower has already learned from our experience at Boundary Dam Power Station and we can safely say that we could build a second carbon capture project on a coal plant for less.”

When and where that happens remains to be seen.  

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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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