First demonstration of carbon capture and utilisation for the cement industry a success
A consortium of five companies – CarbonCure Technologies, Cementos Argos, Praxair, Sustainable Energy Solutions and Kline Consulting – have successfully demonstrated the first cement plant with carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). Using Sustainable Energy Solutions’ technology to capture carbon from Cementos Argos’s Roberta cement plant in the US state of Alabama, Praxiar then transported the gas to another of Cementos Argos’s plants in Atlanta, Georgia. At that plant, the CO2 was used as a feedstock by applying CarbonCure’s mineralisation technology to produce more cement for use in a local construction project, completing the utilisation process. The demonstration was a landmark, as the cement industry is responsible for around 5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and it is estimated that CCS or CCU must be employed to capture around 56% of emissions from the cement industry (with other reductions being achieved through efficiencies and material changes). According to CarbonCure, its technology is not only ready, but scalable, and offers a means to extract value from a gas which is usually considered simply a waste product. It is less clear, however, if the entire process (including the capture and transport elements) would be economically advantageous at this stage, though, like all carbon-related technologies, a carbon price would surely help to shift the balance. In the meantime, CarbonCure will be attracting much interest from around the world.
CERAWeek conference finds oil industry in higher spirits but tinged with concern for future
The Financial Times has covered the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Texas, USA held earlier this month, identifying the main trends and feelings in the conference. One was the improved spirits of the global oil industry, enjoying higher oil prices compared to recent years, but this was coupled with a sense of unease about the future if unconventional oil production leads to a new excess of the fuel in global markets, pushing prices down once more. A third was talk by oil and gas companies of the implications of climate change – what the industry can do to avert the worst of it, but also how it will affect business. This latter issue seems to have split the various companies, with Shell one that saw climate change as a major risk to business, with a possible peak in oil demand occurring as soon as a decade away, and Saudi Aramco representative of the other side, with a spokesman saying he was “not losing any sleep over peak oil demand”. As ever, time will be the judge of the different positions.
Imperial College research suggests 100% wind, water and solar power sector may be unfeasible
Research by the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College, London, has raised doubts about the possibility of running a grid entirely on wind, water and solar power. Many models about future energy generation assume the reliability of such a make-up, but the research by Imperial found that when taking into consideration power transmission, energy storage, and system operability requirements, reliability suffered to the extent that “the power supply would fail often enough that the system would be deemed inoperable.” Even at 77% wind, water and solar energy, the team found that 9% of annual UK power demand would be unmet, meaning significant power outages and disruptions. The research will provide substantial food for thought for meeting climate targets, as Dr Niall Mac Dowell, one of the authors, pointed out. Dr MacDowell said “The focus should be on maximising the rate of decarbonisation, rather than the deployment of a particular technology, or focusing exclusively on renewable power. Nuclear, sustainable bioenergy, low-carbon hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage are vital elements of a portfolio of technologies that can deliver this low carbon future in an economically viable and reliable manner.”
IIASA identifies pathways to limit average global temperature rises to 1.5oC
New analysis by the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) has outlined a number of ways that the world might limit average global temperature rises to 1.5oC. The research is notable in looking at a range of socioeconomic conditions such as population growth and economic inequality, as well as factors such as energy demand and international cooperation. Common to most of the pathways to achieving a limitation of 1.5oC are a rapid uptake of renewable energies and better energy efficiency, removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, the use of carbon capture and storage (or utilisation), and sustainable economic development – economic inequalities would tend to produce “low levels of innovation and productivity”. In most scenarios, peak greenhouse gas emissions occur by 2030, traditional coal firing (without CCS) falls to 20% of what it currently is by 2040, and oil use is phased out by 2060. The researchers hope that the analysis will form the basis of more modelling work to inform policy setting across the world.
US government calls for help to develop small-scale coal-fired plants
The CERAWeek conference was also notable for the surprise announcement by the assistant secretary for fossil energy at the US Department of Energy, Steve Winberg, that the federal government is to ask the private sector to help develop small-scale coal-fired power plants. The political impetus comes from President Donald Trump’s promises to come to the aid of the coal industry; the stated technical rationale is that smaller plants would be better able to help a future electricity grid cope with the intermittency of renewable energy. It appears that the federal government will make funding available to help development of the technology, but the level of interest on the part of the private sector seems uncertain – small-scale coal-fired plants have not been in recent development, and it would probably take a significant shift in research and development strategy on the part of power technology companies to develop such plants. There is also the question of if there would be a future market, domestic or international, especially if the plants were not somehow equipped with carbon capture and storage. However, much of the necessary technology would already have been developed, of course, and smaller-scale plants might be seen as less risky, as they would involve lower capital costs. Additionally, it might offer an opportunity for a new market segment when other segments are shrinking. Perhaps the prospect of government funding may be enough of an incentive to entice power technology companies.
Econic Technologies opens demonstration plant for CO2 utilisation
Another company demonstrating a CO2 utilisation process recently has been the UK’s Econic Technologies, which has opened a plant in Cheshire in the north-west of England, which will produce polyols, sugar alcohols which are found naturally in some foods and used as a precursor for a range of other products. Econic uses a tunable catalyst which lowers the necessary pressures and temperatures usually needed to make polyols, and is hoping that within about ten years 30% of all polyol production will use its technology. It may prove an attractive market for the combustion industry to sell CO2 as a byproduct to.
US DoE opens funding for pre-combustion CCS technology research
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy has announced it has made US$7 million of funding available for research into ‘transformational’ pre-combustion carbon capture and storage technologies. Projects will fall into two areas of interest: “Lab-Scale CO2 Capture Development and Testing of Simulated Syngas” and “Bench-Scale CO2 Capture Development and Testing on Actual Syngas”, and it appears that the transformational nature of the projects would be proved by substantial quality improvements or cost savings to a process.
Japanese companies launch joint venture to help develop ‘hydrogen society’
Eleven Japanese companies have formed a joint venture with the aim of helping usher in a ‘hydrogen society’. The companies include transport giants such as Toyota and Nissan, oil and gas companies such as JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy Corp and Idemitsu Kosan Co, and gas companies such as Tokyo Gas Co, Toho Gas Co, and Air Liquide Japan. The joint venture appears aimed mostly at the transport sector, with plans to install hydrogen stations across the country, but a major transition to becoming a hydrogen economy would surely also create opportunities for electricity generation from firing hydrogen. With growing interest around the world in hydrogen as a fuel for power generation, Japan seems likely to become a pioneer in the field.
Chinese utilities to merge coal-firing assets
State-owned Chinese utility companies Shenhua Energy Company and GD Power Development Co are to form a joint venture to pool their coal-fired power generation assets, as Energy Central reports. The new joint venture will own 66.29 GW of installed generation capacity, with an additional 10.86 GW under construction, giving it perhaps 3-4% of China’s total capacity. The move is aimed at improving the efficiency of the two companies.
Serbia-Kosovo dispute slows European clocks
The ongoing dispute between Serbia and Kosovo over Kosovo’s unilateral separation from Serbia in 2008 has resulted in some clocks across continental Europe being slowed by up to six minutes this year. Kosovo fell behind in the delivery of 113 GWh of power to the Continental Europe Power System, which shares electricity across 25 European countries. The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, which governs the sharing network, requires Serbia to make up any shortfall from Kosovo, but Serbia declined to do so between mid-January and early March, meaning that there was a slight decrease in the electric frequency average, which some electric clocks use to measure time. Kosovo itself generated the additional 113 GWh in early March to bring the system back into balance, stopping the slowing of clocks.
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