Carbon capture steps up with new large scale operations and tech breakthrough

The Petra Nova project started operations in Texas in the first days of 2017. The USD1bn large-scale carbon capture facility is installed at a coal-fired power plant and uses captured emissions to extract crude from a nearby oilfield (through the so-called enhanced oil recovery, EOR, system). The project is a 50-50 joint venture by companies NRG and JX Nippon, who announced the launch “on-budget and on-schedule” on Tuesday (Jan. 10).  The U.S. Department of Energy funded USD190 million of the project’s construction, with USD250 million in loans from the Japanese government. NRG and JX Nippon share the remaining USD 600 million cost, Reuters reported.

According to the companies, the Petra Nova post-combustion facility can collect over 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, roughly 90 percent of emissions from the power plant.

The EOR system provides for the economic viability of carbon capture and storage technology, that is among the major challenges for its deployment. However, it also represents “a paradox in trying to fight climate change by boosting fossil fuel production”, notes the Financial Times.

Petra Nova is one of the large scale CCS projects scheduled to inaugurate between 2016 and 2017. The Kemper Plant is the other project near completion in the United States, expected to become operational at the end of January, The Washington Post reports. According to the Global CCS Institute, it will be the first commercial-scale deployment of the TRIG™ coal gasification process developed jointly by Southern Company and KBR in partnership with the US Department of Energy. ƒ The Illinois Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage Project, the world’s first large-scale BECCS project, is also expected to begin operations in 2017.

On the side of carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), a first-of-its-kind technology was successfully tested in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Guardian reported. The CCU system developed by  Carbon Clean Solutions Limited (CCSL) was applied to a coal-fired power station and the captured CO2 used to produce soda ash, a compound used in many industrial processes, such as glass, detergents and food manufacturing.

The project was launched in October 2016 without subsidies. According to the developer firm, it can capture CO2 at USD30 per/tonne, around half of the cost of the average carbon capture systems in the global power sector.


(Image: Oil wells in Texas. Photo credit: Luis Jou García/Flickr)