The purpose of CO2 capture is to produce a concentrated stream that can be readily transported to a CO2 storage site. CO2 capture and storage is most applicable to large, centralized sources like power plants and large industries. Capture technologies also open the way for large-scale production of low-carbon or carbon-free electricity and fuels for transportation, as well as for small-scale or distributed applications. The energy required to operate CO2 capture systems reduces the overall efficiency of power generation or other processes, leading to increased fuel requirements, solid wastes and environmental impacts relative to the same type of base plant without capture. However, as more efficient plants with capture become available and replace many of the older less efficient plants now in service, the net impacts will be compatible with clean air emission goals for fossil fuel use. Minimization of energy requirements for capture, together with improvements in the efficiency of energy conversion processes will continue to be high priorities for future technology development in order to minimize overall environmental impacts and cost.
At present, CO2 is routinely separated at some large industrial plants such as natural gas processing and ammonia production facilities, although these plants remove CO2 to meet process demands and not for storage. CO2 capture also has been applied to several small power plants. However, there have been no applications at large-scale power plants of several hundred megawatts, the major source of current and projected CO2 emissions. There are three main approaches to CO2 capture, for industrial and power plant applications. Postcombustion systems separate CO2 from the flue gases produced by combustion of a primary fuel (coal, natural gas, oil or biomass) in air. Oxy-fuel combustion uses oxygen instead of air for combustion, producing a flue gas that is mainly H2O and CO2 and which is readily captured. This is an option still under development. Pre-combustion systems process the primary fuel in a reactor to produce separate streams of CO2 for storage and H2 which is used as a fuel. Other industrial processes, including processes for the production of low-carbon or carbon-free fuels, employ one or more of these same basic capture methods. The monitoring, risk and legal aspects associated with CO2 capture systems appear to present no new challenges, as they are all elements of long-standing health, safety and environmental control practice in industry.
For all of the aforementioned applications, we reviewed recent studies of the performance and cost of commercial or near-commercial technologies, as well as that of newer CO2 capture concepts that are the subject of intense R&D efforts worldwide. For power plants, current commercial CO2 capture systems can reduce CO2 emissions by 80-90% kWh-1 (8595% capture efficiency). Across all plant types the cost of electricity production (COE) increases by 12-36 US$ MWh-1 (US$ 0.012-0.036 kWh-1) over a similar type of plant without capture, corresponding to a 40-85% increase for a supercritical pulverized coal (PC) plant, 35-70% for a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plant and 20-55% for an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant using bituminous coal. Overall the COE for fossil fuel plants with capture, ranges from 43-86 US$ MWh-1, with the cost per tonne of CO2 ranging from 1157 US$/tCO2 captured or 13-74 US$/tCO2 avoided (depending on plant type, size, fuel type and a host of other factors). These costs include CO2 compression but not additional transport and storage costs. NGCC systems typically have a lower COE than new PC and IGCC plants (with or without capture) for gas prices below about 4 US$ GJ-1. Most studies indicate that IGCC plants are slightly more costly without capture and slightly less costly with capture than similarly sized PC plants, but the differences in cost for plants with CO2 capture can vary with coal type and other local factors. The lowest CO2 capture costs (averaging about 12 US$/t CO2 captured or 15 US$/tCO2 avoided) were found for industrial processes such as hydrogen production plants that produce concentrated CO2 streams as part of the current production process; such industrial processes may represent some of the earliest opportunities for CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS). In all cases, CO2 capture costs are highly dependent upon technical, economic and financial factors related to the design and operation of the production process or power system of interest, as well as the design and operation of the CO2 capture technology employed. Thus, comparisons of alternative technologies, or the use of CCS cost estimates, require a specific context to be meaningful.
New or improved methods of CO2 capture, combined with advanced power systems and industrial process designs, can significantly reduce CO2 capture costs and associated energy requirements. While there is considerable uncertainty about the magnitude and timing of future cost reductions, this assessment suggests that improvements to commercial technologies can reduce CO2 capture costs by at least 20-30% over approximately the next decade, while new technologies under development promise more substantial cost reductions. Realization of future cost reductions, however, will require deployment and adoption of commercial technologies in the marketplace as well as sustained R&D.
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