Feature Report: Carbon Capture and Storage

3 items of content in this feature report

Going in depth


Carbon Capture and Storage Projects Worldwide

International experts agree that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an immensely important mid-to-long-term solution for curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigating global warming. But industrial-scale CCS applications still have a long way to go to meet the set objectives.

Carbon Capture and Storage Projects Worldwide
A carbon reservoir being installed at one of energy group Vattenfall's factories in Germany. ©AFP PHOTO DDP - MICHAEL URBAN

According to the most recent forecasts by the International Energy Agency (IEA)An independent, intergovernmental organization founded within the framework of the OECD..., CCS could contribute as much as 13% to the overall reduction of global fossil-fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... CO2 emissions by 2050. This would make it the third most effective driver after energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system... (38%) and the development of renewable energies (30%).1

More than 30 billion metric tons of CO2 are currently generated annually by human activities due to fossil fuel combustion

Achieving this goal will be a challenge. Current levels are close to zero, with only 30 million metric tons of co2See Carbon Dioxid captured at some 20 plants worldwide in 2015. While another 50 or so plants are in the preparation phase, an equal number have been scrapped or suspended after coming up against various obstacles. The U.S., Europe, China and Canada are currently leading the way in the sector.2

Industrial-scale Projects

CCS operations classify as being of "industrial scale" when they can capture over 800,000 metric tons of CO2 a year.

Currently, carbon capture is mostly used to enhance oil field production.

Here, CO2 is injected into oil or gas extraction wells to increase output (see Feature Report: "Oil and Gas Production"). The first CCS system applied to a large-scale coal-fired powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... plant was inaugurated in 2014 in Saskatchewan, Canada. Fully 90% of the CO2 from one of the plant's four units is captured and sold to an oil company before being transported 200 kilometers by gas pipelinePipeline used to transport gas over a long distance, either on land or on the seabed. for use in enhancing oil field production. On the downside, capturing the carbon requires a third of the plant's energy, draining its capacity from 165 MW to 110 MW. The sale of the CO2 partly offsets this shortfall.

CCS operations classify as being of "industrial scale" when they can capture over 800,000 metric tons of CO2 a year.

The same technology can also be applied to industrial facilities like steel and cement plants. In Abu Dhabi, an Emirates Steel project set to start operations in 2016 aims to capture 90% of the carbon dioxide emitted by its steelworks operations, compress it and send it to an oil field 50 kilometers away to improve hydrocarbonOrganic compound consisting of carbon and hydrogen. Hydrocarbons are the principal constituents of crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products. extraction.

Carbon dioxide can also be captured during natural gas production. This is because the methane (ch4)The main component of natural gas deposits and oil deposit gas caps. Methane is produced naturally by landfills... produced sometimes contains CO2, making the natural gas difficult to liquefy and sell. Since 1996, the Sleipner gas site in the North Sea, for example, has been separating an annual million metric tons of CO2 from its gas and reinjecting it 1,000 meters below the seabed. 

Carbon Capture and Storage Pilot Projects

Industrial pilot projects are smaller plants that capture less than 50,000 metric tons of CO2 a year. Some 20 such plants worldwide were operational at the start of 2015.

In France, Total led a pilot project at the Lacq gas field in southwestern France3. The first phase of the project, which ran from 2010 to 2013, consisted in separating CO2 from the gas, then injecting 50,000 metric tons into a depleted gas reservoir. The second phase covers 2013 to 2016 and involves monitoring the reservoir to ensure there is no long-term environmental impactAny change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity... (see Infographic: "Total's Pilot Project in Lacq")

Studies into Carbon Capture and Storage

Studies worldwide are currently exploring both technologies and storage capacity estimates – an essential factor in determining viable sites. The France Nord study, which was conducted by the biggest French players in CCS, set out to assess the potential capacity of the Paris basin. While it found that previous estimates had been exaggerated, it nevertheless offered precious methodological insights into how to map out potential sites and draw up all requisite conditions, particularly in terms of ability to withstand pressure. 


Sources : 

(1) Source IEA

(2) Interactive map of CCS project by MIT

(3) The Lacq Demonstration