• Combustion Industry News

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Shell ‘Sky’ scenario posits 10,000 CCS installations by 2070

Late last month saw Shell release an outline of a scenario in which the world meets the goal of the Paris Agreement of limiting the global average temperature rise to below 2oC. The Sky scenario envisages net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, by which time worldwide electricity use has risen 500% compared to today, nuclear power has tripled, and there are 10,000 facilities equipped with carbon capture and storage. Interestingly, Shell does not see CCS really taking off until 2040, but extracting so much carbon dioxide through negative emissions that by 2075 the world is at net negative emissions. Liquid hydrocarbon use almost halves between 2020 and 2050, and has fallen by 90% of today’s consumption by 2070. Hydrogen is used for heavy transport and electric vehicles are used for lighter transport. The company is at pains to stress that the scenario is not a projection of what will happen, but more of a thought experiment about what it would take to achieve the goal of the Paris Agreement. The most important change needed for that to happen, the company believes, is government support.

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Investment in transport infrastructure to push Argentinian shale gas

The expansion of shale gas production from the Vaca Muerta basin in the south of Argentina has taken another step, with Transportadora de Gas del Sur announcing plans to invest US$250 million (€203 million) over the next two years in gas transportation infrastructure. A major part will be spent on a 92 km gathering pipeline, with a capacity of 1.3 billion cubic feet per day (which is about 25% of the capacity of the Nordstream pipeline linking Russia to northern Europe). Vaca Muerta is the world’s second largest shale field, and Argentina is hoping to become a major player in the gas export business, with transportation capacity currently seen as the limiting factor in such plans. Transportadora de Gas del Sur is planning on investing US$800 million (€650 million) on infrastructure and facilities over the coming years, and it may be that Argentina is talked of more often in the next decade when it comes to worldwide gas markets.

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China meets 2020 climate targets three years early, while Australian emissions rise instead of fall

Two reports over the last few weeks have given updates on China and Australia’s progress towards their carbon emissions reduction targets. China’s announcement has been the most striking, with the country reaching its 2020 target already, three years ahead of schedule, with the Chinese representative to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change attributing part of the progress to the limited carbon trading market the country began in 2011. While absolute emissions have risen, emissions per unit of economic activity, which is China’s measure, have fallen by 46% since 2005. Less encouraging news has come from Australia, where total emissions rose slightly last year compared to the year before, despite emissions from electricity generation falling, putting Australia off course to meet its Paris Agreement targets. Australia’s emissions have risen notably since the cancellation of its carbon pricing system in mid-2014.

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Plant nitrogen theory overturned with new research which may affect climate models

Researchers have overturned a long-standing belief about the sources of nitrogen that plant life uses to grow, with important implications for climate science and modelling. Previously, the scientific consensus was that plants suck nitrogen exclusively from the atmosphere, but the new research has found that around a quarter has its origins in Earth’s bedrock, being released as rocks weather or during tectonic movements. With this ‘new’ source of nitrogen, it may be that there is more plant growth than models have previously assumed, meaning that more atmospheric carbon dioxide would be being consumed . Such an effect would not be globally uniform, depending instead on regional geologies, with northern latitudes, as well as the Himalayas and the Andres richer in the types of rock that release more nitrogen. The discovery may not only require the modification of climate models and be some reprieve from the magnitude of the problem of climate change, but also spur a new area of research.

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New brown coal to hydrogen project to launch in Australia

A trial project has been launched in the Australian state of Victoria to produce hydrogen from brown coal. With AU$100 million (US$77 million/€63 million) backing from the federal and Victorian governments to contribute to the AU$496 million (US$384 million/€311 million) project, construction of a demonstration plant is to begin mid this year, with completion scheduled for 2021. Carbon dioxide produced while synthesising the hydrogen will be stored in the Bass Strait, the body of water between the Australian mainland and the island of Tasmania. Partners to the project include Kawasaki Heavy Industries, J-Power, Iwatani Corporation, Marubeni and the Japanese Government, and the liquefied hydrogen will be shipped to Japan to help fuel the East Asian country’s planned hydrogen economy. It is a bold and rather expensive project, and comes after the failure of a project earlier this decade to find a new use for Victoria’s reserves of brown coal, but if successful could be a marker in a new sector in the world economy.

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Bellona criticises cost-benefit analysis of Norwegian CO2 transport and storage network

The Norwegian environmental organisation Bellona has issued a report in response to a cost-benefit analysis by the engineering consultancy Atkins on the proposed Norwegian project to build a CO2 transport and storage network across north-west Europe. Though the Atkins report is available, it is in Norwegian, meaning that a reading of it has not been possible. From Bellona’s criticism, however, it appears to have argued that the proposed network is not advantageous from the cost-benefit point of view adopted, and that Norway would better meet its climate reduction goals by buying international offsetting credits and other means. Bellona argues, in contrast, that the cost-benefit scope was flawed, as it assumed the use of the EU Emissions Trading System as “the sole basis for an assessment of methods for Norway to reach its climate commitments and investment in CCS full-scale deployment in particular,” whereas the EU-ETS has not provided a strong incentive to European industry to date to limit carbon emissions. This, Bellona argues, is demonstrated by the fact that several nations, including France, the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands have set their own national carbon price floors. Bellona goes on to argue that a failure to pursue European CO2 transport and storage networks will doom Europe (including Norway) to deindustrialisation in order for countries to meet their emissions reduction targets. More widely still, the lack of European storage networks would discourage industrial facilities from capturing carbon, and create a knock-on effect retarding CCS development worldwide. It is difficult to argue against the wider importance of the Norwegian project, and what the Norwegian government chooses to do will be of high interest to the combustion industry worldwide.

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Total joins Canadian CO2 Solutions project as an industrial partner

Total has become an industrial partner to CO2 Solutions in the latter company’s US$15 million (€12.2 million) Valorisation Carbone Québec project, which launched last year. The nature of Total’s industrial partnership is that, in return for its financial backing of the further development of the technology, it will receive project data, which would be useful in future CCS projects. VCQ now has 11 partners in total, with Université Laval, the Quebec government, Suncor Energy Inc, Société Investissement Québec and the engineering firm Hatch being amongst the others. The new partnership is a sign of the interest that CO2 Solutions is generating amongst industry in a field in which many companies are looking to gain the upper hand. VCG is currently competing in the Carbon XPRIZE challenge, sponsored by U.S. utility NRG and Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), which has a prize of US$20 million (€16.3 million). Entrants are scored on how much industrial carbon dioxide emissions their technologies convert into useful products, and there remain 23 competitors in the second round of the competition.

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Then is now VGB PowerTech Executive Managing Director

International technical association for the generation and storage of power and heat, VGB PowerTech e.V., has appointed Dr Oliver Then its new Executive Managing Director. The appointment began at the start of this month and also covers the commercial arm of the organisation, VGB PowerTech Service. Dr Then studied at Ruhr and Aachen universities, and spent much of his professional career at RWE before joining VGB PowerTech in 2013. The former executive managing director, Erland Christensen, will continue with the organisation until the end of June this year, enabling a hand-over period after his seven years in charge. The IFRF wishes both men all the best.

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India’s JSW Steel to invest $500 million in US plants

Indian steelmaker JSW Steel has announced plans to invest US$500 million (€406 million) to upgrade an existing steelmaking plant and build another new one in the US state of Texas. The decision appears to be partially motivated by the Trump administration’s move to impose tariffs on steel imports, though other factors are also at play – cheap natural gas supplies and a surplus of scrap metal in the area. Electric arc furnaces will form the bases of the plants.

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