Oil and gas

A faster track to carbon capture and storage

Petra Nova carbon capture
The Petra Nova carbon capture facility at a power station in Texas provides CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in a distant oilfield (Photo: NRG)

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Kaare Helle

Kaare Helle

CCS service leader

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  • 17 large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants operate globally

  • More are needed to achieve global warming targets

  • Innovation and collaboration are reducing cost barriers to CCS

The 2015 COP 21 Paris Agreement to mitigate global warming assumes a massively expanded effort to capture and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) produced when burning coal or gas to generate power, or from industrial operations.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the only available technology for mitigating climate change that can unlock continued use of fossil fuel reserves in the future. CO2 capture from gas-fuelled power plants could increase the appeal of natural gas for electricity generation in the transition to greater use of more intermittent renewable power.

In the oil and gas industry, captured and transported CO2 is injected into reservoirs for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a use that is expanding. Industries to which the broader concept of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) can be applied vary widely, and new applications are being found.

A proven technology

CCS technology has been proven since the early 1970s, and recent high-profile projects have encouraged hopes that policymakers are grasping the importance of large-scale CCS in the fight against global warming.

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Kaare Helle

Kaare Helle

CCS service leader

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CCS is not a silver bullet. But it is a key technology in the transition to a low-carbon future and in the fight against climate change”
Ben van Beurden,
  • chief executive officer, Shell

“CCS is not a silver bullet. But it is a key technology in the transition to a low-carbon future and in the fight against climate change,” said Ben van Beurden, chief executive officer, Shell, while opening the company’s Quest CCS facility next to its Scotford refinery and chemicals plants in Canada.1

Quest can capture more than 1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) CO2 for permanent storage deep underground. Shell has stressed how the technology can be applied to other industries to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions.

Similarly, utility SaskPower’s 1mtpa capacity Boundary Dam CCS project in Canada could be replicated elsewhere in the world for up to 30% less capital expenditure, the company said after the opening in 2014 of the world’s first such plant on such a scale.2

Examples of sources supplying captured CO2 for EOR include the giant Petra Nova CCS project at the WA Parish power plant, Houston, US; an Emirates Steel Industries factory in Abu Dhabi; and Yanchang Integrated CCS, China’s first large-scale project, where preparations for construction are underway.

Norwegian state-owned enterprise Gassnova has awarded contracts to ammonia, cement, and waste-to-energy plants for detailed studies of full-scale CO2 capture. If built, they would include the first examples of full-scale capture from cement and waste-to-energy plants.

The contracts are part of a large-scale CCS project, with DNV GL involvement, in which Norway aims to demonstrate a full chain of capture in existing industries, transport and flexible storage. “CCS must be applied on a large scale globally if we are to achieve the climate change targets set in the Paris Agreement,” said Trude Sundset, CEO, Gassnova. “The Norwegian full-scale project paves the way for future projects through reducing cost and risk.”

Large-scale deployments are slow

While increasing in number, deployment of large-scale CCS remains rare. By summer 2017, the Global CCS Institute (GCCSI) was tracking only 40 large-scale projects at various stages of development.3 It defines ‘large-scale’ as the capture, transport, and storage of at least 0.8mtpa CO2 for a coal-based power plant, or a minimum 0.4mtpa for other industrial facilities including natural gas-based electricity generation.

Of large-scale projects in May 2017, seven were operational with a combined capacity of 31mtpa: a further five, with 9mtpa capacity in total, were under construction. More than 100 small-scale plants were operating.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) describes the pace of CCS deployment as being “out of step with Paris [Agreement] ambitions” and “not consistent with a 2°C pathway, let alone one well below 2°C”.4 The agency concludes that even if all projects under consideration by late 2016 were to become reality, CCS would still capture less than a sixth of the CO2 required in 2025 under the 2°C scenario.

Barriers and solutions

Shell highlighted how supportive government policy was essential in getting Quest up and running and how backing from policymakers will continue to play a vital role in developing large-scale CCS projects globally.

The cost of carbon capture relative to the cost of emitting CO2 is the critical drag on deployment.5 “Per tonne, it takes EUR60-90 to capture CO2 today compared with around EUR5 to emit it in the European Union, for example” observed Kaare Helle, CCS service leader, DNV GL – Oil & Gas. “In many countries around the world, the cost of emission is zero.”

DNV GL has more than 25 years’ experience advising customers on CCUS projects, acting as an independent and trusted partner for assessing and communicating risks throughout the value chain offshore and onshore. The company captures knowledge into its recommended practices and standards, and advises on creating and implementing international standards such as ISO for CCS.

Shell’s Quest CCS project, Canada (Photo: Shell)
Shell’s Quest CCS project, Canada (Photo: Shell)
With carbon pricing at a level where few CO2 emitters currently opt for CCS, driving wider deployment is a regulatory and political issue rather than a technical one”
Kaare Helle,
  • CCS service leader, DNV GL – Oil & Gas

“With carbon pricing at levels where few CO2 emitters currently opt for CCS, driving wider deployment is a regulatory and political issue rather than a technical one”, Helle stressed.

“Higher carbon pricing would accelerate CCS innovation and investment in shared infrastructure for capture, transportation and storage,” he added. “We need more projects such as Boundary Dam, Petra Nova, Gassnova and others that pave the way for the repeated use of proven technologies and designs to deliver big capex savings. It is where the real boost to deployment can come from, though smaller, operational expenditure gains to be had from research into reducing the cost of capture technologies are also welcome.”

De-risking capture technologies

The CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM), Norway, is one example of an industry-backed research facility pursuing more efficient CO2-capture. It has hosted industrial-scale test campaigns for a range of industry clients, and continues to do so.

“Encouragingly, the Paris Agreement has generated more enquiries from companies wanting to work with us,” TCM’s current managing director Roy Vardheim said. “Collaboration among test centres internationally is also rising. We anticipate increasing cooperation going forward between TCM, Norway’s Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), the National Carbon Capture Centre in the US, and projects in China and other countries.”

Reducing CCS technology costs is also an initial focus of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s USD1 billion (bn) investment fund pledged by 10 oil companies as a decade-long programme to support innovation to cut carbon emissions and promote renewable energy.

Opportunities in transport and storage

The Global CCS Institute estimates that at least 200mt of manmade CO2 have been injected into the sub-surface globally since large-scale CCS began. Captured CO2 from natural gas processing in Statoil’s Sleipner West field has been stored in a dedicated, deep sandstone reservoir offshore Norway since 1996, for example.

Increasing interest and innovation in CCS mean oil and gas companies can monetize such knowledge, Helle said: “Pioneering companies understand the geology and can exploit that to create an additional revenue stream from CO2 storage.”

In the Norwegian full-scale CCS chain demonstrator project, a combined pipeline and shipping system is being examined for CO2 storage in the Smeaheia area around 50 kilometres offshore Norway; a final investment decision is scheduled for 2019.

The Norwegian CCS Research Centre is also examining the case for capturing CO2 from European sources to be piped for storage offshore Norway. “This could create a USD1bn industry,” Helle explained.

“The overall challenge in CCS is to learn how to build plants as efficiently as possible to get that capture price down. Knowledge sharing is vital. This is why, for example, Norwegian government funding for the demonstrator project insists on pooling learnings. DNV GL itself promotes and leads collaboration and standardization to assist the spread of know-how, trust and transparency in CCS.”


1 ‘Quest CCS: the world is watching’, speech by Ben van Beurden, CEO Shell, November 2015.
2 ‘Carbon capture faces viability struggle’, Financial Times, 23 November 2014
3 ‘Major strides in 2017 for CCS’, Peter Grubnic, Global CCS Institute, 08 May 2017
4 ‘20 years of CCS: Accelerating Future Deployment’, OECD/IEA, November 2016
5 ‘Shell says industry needs to push for CCS, CO2 tax’, Natural Gas World, 22 February 2017

CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad, Norway (Photo: Helge Hansen/Montag)
CO2 Technology Centre Mongstad, Norway (Photo: Helge Hansen/Montag)

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