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Prepare CO2 capture and storage now for greater environmental benefit later

CO2 capture and storage can make a major contribution to CO2 reduction in the Netherlands. By the mid-21st century 80 to 110 million tonnes of CO2 per year could be avoided in the sectors energy, industry and transport. This is half of the current CO2 emission. Moreover, this can be realised against acceptable costs concludes Dutch researcher Kay Damen.

To realise such reductions in CO2 emission, a clear and internationally-oriented vision and bridging strategy is necessary, so that the storage capacity that is released over the next few decennia can actually be used for CO2 storage says Damen. He investigated the technical possibilities, costs and risks of CO2 capture, transport and underground storage.

Electricity greatest potential

In 2020 15 million tonnes of CO2 per year could be avoided by capturing CO2 in the new coal-fired power stations yet to be constructed. Moreover, existing pulverised coal-fired power stations may also be equipped with CO2 capture installations, although the costs of this are relatively high. In 2050 the reduction potential is estimated to be 60 to 84 million tonnes of CO2 per year, for a scenario in which the electricity production is doubled.

By capturing CO2 in industrial processes a further 16 million tonnes of CO2 per year can be avoided. Further if cars are run on hydrogen or synthetic diesel produced from fossil fuels combined with CO2 capture then this could eventually lead to a difference of more than 10 million tonnes of CO2 emission per year. For the production of hydrogen in the transport sector, Damen investigated the thermodynamic performance and costs of decentralised membrane reformers. This new technology makes it possible to capture CO2 against relatively low costs.

CO2 transport and storage

Damen calculated the costs of the pipelines necessary to transport the captured CO2 to underground storage reservoirs. Gas fields are, in addition to deep saline aquifers and coal seams, the most suitable reservoirs for CO2 storage in the Netherlands. The capacity that becomes available for CO2 storage can, however, be limited by a series of geological factors, including the risk of CO2 leakage via wells and faults. Although the mechanisms of CO2 leakage are known, quantifying the risks is still a challenge. Additionally CO2 storage could compete with the underground storage of natural gas, especially if the Netherlands develops into an international gas 'roundabout'. If the Netherlands has to maximise its efforts on CO2 capture and storage then eventually one of the 'mega storage reservoirs’ will have to be released, for example, the Groningen gas field or large structures in the British or Norwegian part of the North Sea.

The doctoral research ‘System analyses of transition routes to advanced fossil fuel utilisation with CO2 capture and storage’ was part of the programme ‘Transition to sustainable use of fossil fuels’ that was funded by the NWO/SenterNovem Stimulation Programme Energy Research. The programme aims to develop knowledge in the natural and social sciences for the transition to a sustainable energy supply.

Dr Kay Damen | alfa
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