How Natural Gas and CCS Technology Work Together

Natural Gas and CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) have a future together in our energy infrastructure. Although natural gas is much cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel inherently containing carbon elements that can be released back into the environment, leaving an unwanted carbon footprint.  CCS technologies can remove a large percentage of that carbon, permanently removing it from the carbon cycle.

Recently Shell revealed their Sky Scenario, in which power plants and processing plants utilizing fossil fuels (like natural gas and crude oil) and biofuels (like renewable natural gas and biodiesel) incorporate Carbon Capture and Storage facilities to minimize the carbon impact. According to their possible scenario, the installation of CCS facilities around the globe would work alongside fossil fuels, renewables, nuclear energy, and increased photosynthesis to bring us to a carbon-neutral energy status by 2070. So what exactly is CCS, how is its implementation progressing, and what would its future look like?

What is Carbon Capture and Storage

How CCS works, by LeJean Hardin and Jamie Payne derivative work: Jarl Arntzen, CC BY-SA 3.0

According to the Global CCS Institute, Carbon Capture and Storage involves “capturing CO2 produced by large industrial plants, compressing it for transportation and then injecting it deep into a rock formation at a carefully selected and safe site, where it is permanently stored.”

In essence, fossil fuels are vast storehouses of hydrogen and carbon that were safely stored underground. CCS technology puts this carbon back underground and out of the carbon cycle, preventing the greenhouse effects that are otherwise caused.

Three Steps of CCS: Capture, Transport, and Storage

CCS Capture

Capture involves separating CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) from other gases produced at large industrial process plants such as coal and gas power plants, oil plants, steel mills, and cement plants. Capturing technologies include post-combustion, pre-combustion, and oxy-fuel combustion. Post-combustion and pre-combustion are commonly used.  Oxy-fuel combustion holds a lot of promise for zero-emission results.  However, it is more energy-intensive and expensive.  Overall, this first step of capturing the CO2 represents 2/3 of the total CCS costs.  The hope is that technologies will continue to develop that will reduce this cost and, along with government subsidies, make CCS financially easier to implement.

CCS Transport

After capturing the CO2, it needs to be compressed and transported to a geological storage site. Pipelines are the cheapest and most common way of transporting CO2. There are about 5000 miles of CO2 pipelines currently in service. Pipeline construction companies such as Hanging H are installing about 100 additional miles each year.  With the effects of global warming mounting, the velocity of CO2 pipeline construction projects is likely to increase. We at Hanging H are dedicated to environmental efforts and pleased to have a share in building the CO2  and natural gas pipeline infrastructure that helps make energy cleaner.

CCS Storage

Carbon dioxide is pumped into suitable underground geological formations. Options include unmineable coal seams, saline formations, and declining oil fields.  The most economically sound option is to use CO2 in declining oil fields to replace the removed oil and help push out more oil.  This method, termed enhanced oil recovery, helps recover oil that was previously unrecoverable.  Hence there is an economic incentive to utilizing this CCS storage method. Between 30 and 50 Million metric tons of CO2 are injected annually into declining oil fields in the USA.  This storage method is the most developed and is responsible for most of the carbon storage currently in practice.

How is CCS Implementation Progressing

Global CCS Institute tracks currently operating large-scale CCS facilities, along with facilities in construction and in development. To qualify as a “large-scale” CCS facility, a plant must pull at least 800,000 metric tons of CO2 annually from coal power plants, or 400,000 metric tons of CO2 annually from other emission-intensive facilities like natural gas power plants.

The institute notes 17 large-scale CCS facilities currently in operation. Nine of these currently operating facilities are in the United States, with the others in Canada, Norway, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.  There are 20 more large-scale CCS facilities in construction or in different stages of development, between Canada, China, United States, Australia, Norway, United Kingdom, and South Korea.

The Future of Carbon Capture and Storage

According to Shell’s Sky scenario, it will take around 10,000 CCS facilities globally to come to a carbon-neutral position by 2070, given the projected growth of energy needs and of other greener energy sources. This is a very significant number, not an easy task to accomplish. It would take significant international dedication and government incentives to reach this goal.

With natural gas and crude oil projected to be a major portion of our energy supply for several decades to come, it only makes sense to use these resources in a clean and responsible way.  Carbon Capture and Storage technologies, as well as CCU (Carbon Capture and Utilization) techniques, play an important role in reducing our carbon footprint while still meeting the energy demands of our century.

March 30, 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">html</abbr> tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>