Industrial applications of CO2 capture and storage

Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) can be applied to all industrial installations emitting large amounts of CO2.

The main application expected in the future is the recovery and storage of CO2 emitted by fossil fuel power plants, which amounts to 40% of CO2 emitted worldwide.

Coal-fired power plants clearly represent the main target to be considered. The first way to reduce their emissions is to improve the efficiency of the plant, by increasing the pressure at which steam is generated and the temperature at which it is superheated. It requires the use of highly performing steels.

The average efficiency of coal-fired power plants is around 30 % worldwide. It can approach 45 % for the most modern installations nowadays. In the near future, it might become close to 50 % if ultra-supercritical cycles are used2.

Emissions per kWh produced are inversely proportional to the efficiency and increasing the efficiency is the first action to undertake, before capturing and storing CO2.

Nevertheless, deploying CCS is the only way to curb sharply the emissions from fossil fuel power plants in the future. In order to achieve such a goal, it is necessary to overcome obstacles which are not only technical but also economical. In the case of coal-fired power plants, CO2 emissions amount to around 600kgperMWh of electricity produced for 50% of efficiency and 800kg for 40%. This has to be compared with 300 kg in the case of a gas-fired combined cycle with efficiency close to 60 %.

For a cost of D 50 for each ton of CO2 not emitted to the atmosphere as a result of the application of CCS, an additional cost of D 40 per MWh has to be taken into account, which means that the cost for each MWh of electricity produced is almost doubled.

It is expected that CCS might become operational for fossil fuel power plants by 2020.

During a first phase, CCS might be used mainly in conjunction with EOR, the CO2 source being provided by natural gas processing units.

During a second phase, beyond 2020, new industrial projects might involve CO2 recovery from flue gases and CO2 injection in deep aquifers.

CCS can also be applied in other industrial sectors which are large emitters of CO2. For its production, 1 ton of steel generates 1.8 ton of CO2 and 1 ton of cement generates 0.89 ton of CO2.

2 These are cycles in which steam reaches temperatures around 700 ° C, which is much higher than the water critical temperature (374 °C), requiring the use of compatible materials.

In the future, the production of synthetic fuels might also become a major source of CO2. For all these applications, CCS is to be considered as the main tool in the future for curbing CO2 emissions.

In the longer term, CCS might avoid the equivalent of 6-7 Gt of CO2 emitted each year.

Thus IEA estimates that around 6.4 Gt/year of CO2 emissions will be avoided with the help of CCS by 2050, including 3.8 Gt/year in the sector of electricity producers, 1Gt/year in the area of synthetic fuels production and 1.6 Gt/year in other industrial sectors [18].

In order to be able to apply industrially CCS in the future, it has to become part of the carbon emissions trading scheme, especially in the European Union which has set up the first large trading scheme. This is not yet the case and this issue is presently debated. It will require a rigorous assessment method of CO2 emissions which can be avoided in this way.

Maintaining the competitiveness with industries abroad not submitted to the same constraints is also an important issue to be settled, especially for exporting industries, when implementing CCS. Due to its comparatively high cost, a mandatory application of CCS might lead to a relocation of activities, such as the steel industry, to countries which would not impose similar constraints. Such a result would of course be quite the opposite of the initial goal. It is therefore necessary to introduce at international level mechanisms which will avoid such a breach of the rules enabling fair competition.

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