Archive for January, 2011

Coal is here to stay

Posted by on Friday, 28 January, 2011

“Coal is here to stay” – these are the words of Milton Catelin, head of World Coal Institute during his presentation at the World Future Energy Summit held in Abu Dhabi recently. This underlines the importance of coal that will be the mainstay of future energy security. Also China and India which are the largest consumer of energy in the world are expected to meet their increasing energy demand from coal based thermal power plants. That’s why governments and industry have started focusing on CCS technologies as a means to reduce their contribution of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is optimistic about the CCS technologies potential to capture CO2 from industries and considers CCS as the most important tool for CO2 savings. The agency predicts that CCS would alone account for 20% of carbon mitigation effort in this century reducing carbon emissions on the same lines of renewable energy sources. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says CCS would account for 10-55% of the world’s carbon mitigation efforts.

Having said this, CCS is not only a climate change mitigation mechanism; it can be used to make money as well.  A few decades back, companies in USA injected CO2 for EOR. Also the captured CO2 can be used as feedstock in the manufacturing of products like gasoline, plastics, cement among others for which extensive research is underway. A detailed blog post on using CO2 as feedstock is available here. Adding to it, inclusion of CCS projects under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) wherein these projects are eligible for carbon credits makes it still more attractive economically.

Indian Fertilizer Company Licensing Carbon Capture Technology

Posted by on Friday, 21 January, 2011

I was wondering for quite sometime, what was Indian industries contribution towards carbon emission reduction. Because nowhere I came across mention of India’s effort in carbon capture and storage projects as a part of climate change mitigation strategy.  Also looking at my previous posts I realized that though India ranks among top 10 countries in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, there has not been any post on India’s effort in addressing the problem of global warming by adoption of CCS technology.

So I started looking for CCS projects in India and ended up in finding an article about Indian fertilizer company National Fertilizer Ltd (NFL) licensing Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) carbon capture technology to set up a recovery plant at its Vijaipur plant in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The fertilizer industry is also among the largest emitter of carbon dioxide. The carbon capture technology of MHI uses KS-1 solvent (jointly developed by MHI and Kansai electric company) that captures the CO2 from the flue gas stream. The captured CO2 is said to be of 99% purity which will be recycled again to be used in the production of urea from ammonia.  Thus the problem of carbon dioxide storage is addressed by recycling in the same manufacturing process. NFL claims to capture 450 tons of CO2 per day which will be one of the world’s largest capture facilities in the world once it is commissioned.

To my surprise this is not the first time an Indian fertilizer company has licensed the MHI technology. The NFL is the third company only next to Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) and Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited (NFCL) to license this technology. So far MHI has licensed the CO2 recovery technology to 9 fertilizer plants around the world. Coal fired power plants in India contribute to around 80% of the total electricity generated and will remain the main source of energy in the near future as well. Taking cues from the fertilizer companies, will the thermal power plants adopt a similar carbon capture technology to reduce their carbon emissions?

For more on this story click here.

Carbon dioxide leakage raises questions in Alberta

Posted by on Tuesday, 18 January, 2011

I came across a news item about the carbon dioxide contamination in a farm in Saskatchewan province of Canada. This leakage is possibly from the nearby underground carbon dioxide storage site operated by Weyburn. This report gains importance in the backdrop of Alberta government amending an existing act on CCS recently. You can find a post on this topic here.

Weyburn project was initiated with the twin objectives of

  1. Providing a new lease of life to the depleted oil fields
  2. Finding ways to trap and store carbon dioxide underground without letting it into the atmosphere.

This project has so far trapped and stored about 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the past decade and is a major contributor to CCS research in Canada. There is an allegation of carbon dioxide contamination of a farm from the near by Weyburn storage site that according to the owner of the farm has polluted the pond water and harmed their animals. Will this be a setback to the Weyburn project (in particular) and (in general) CCS research in Canada?

The wildrose alliance and the NDP, the main critics of Alberta government in its carbon reduction efforts are highlighting this leakage episode to scrap Alberta governments multi billion dollar pledge to make CCS projects commercially viable. Alberta energy minister Ron Liepert is defending his government’s $2 billion commitment towards CCS technology to store carbon emissions despite comments from their critics. The minister continues to say “Carbon capture and storage takes place throughout the world, and all of the data that we have is that it can be stored safely”.

Weyburn project is the largest CCS demonstration project operating in the world. So when such an allegation is framed on this project, a couple of questions comes to my mind that needs to be answered – Will this be a beginning of end of the research in CCS? Or is this just a false propaganda by the critics of the CCS projects? I believe a ‘wait and watch’ approach would provide a satisfactory answer to the above question.

Alberta province and CCS

Posted by on Monday, 17 January, 2011

The legislative assembly of Alberta province in Canada has passed a legislation related to CCS towards the end of last year. The Carbon capture and storage amendment statues amendment act 2010, Bill 24 is an amendment to the existing act. Some of the main features covered by this amendment act are pore space ownership, long term liability and establishing a CCS fund.

1.       Pore space ownership: For the first time, the act talks about the ownership of pore spaces underground where the carbon dioxide is injected. The act says the ownership of the pores pace lies with the government and any company interested in using the pore spaces for storing the captured Co2 from industries need to get prior permission from the concerned authorities

2.       Long term liability: according to the act, the provincial government of Alberta is liable for the carbon dioxide that is injected in the underground storage reservoir.

3.       CCS fund: The act also establishes a fund pooled in by the CCS project operators to fund the ongoing monitoring costs and for any remediation if required.

Alberta is the first province in Canada to legislate on a subject related to CCS. This is in line with the Alberta’s goal to bring a minimum of 5 commercial projects online by 2015. Alberta has committed C$2billion in 2008 towards carbon capture and storage projects. This fund would be used to develop technologies to capture and store carbon emissions in a safe way in order to reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Alberta’s energy minister Ron Liepert compares the investment in CCS to that of investment in research of oil sands decades ago.

Storing CO2 in products

Posted by on Thursday, 13 January, 2011

I recently came across an article where a company claims to have developed a method for producing gasoline from CO2. This seems to be interesting at a time when researchers are working on finding ways to sequester CO2 in geological formations for economic activity like enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The other option that seems to be promising is to store carbon in products like gasoline, plastics, cement etc. This post will focus on the potential of using CO2 directly as feedstock for producing carbon containing products thereby reducing the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

CO2 has many industrial uses. The chemical industry uses carbon dioxide to produce fertilizers, plastics, and polymers. Some of the important products that can be produced from CO2 for which research is in various stages of development are plastics, cement, and gasoline among others.

Now let’s look at how CO2 is used as feedstock for plastics production and its associated benefits. Plastics are synthetic polymers produced mainly from crude oil. Novomer, a material manufacturing company in New York is developing a process for manufacturing plastics from CO2. It is estimated that for every 1 tonne of oil burnt, 3 tonne of CO2 is released into the atmosphere and for producing 1 tonne of plastics, 2 tonne of oil is required. So for every tonne of plastics produced, 6 tonne of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Using the process developed by Novomer, the amount of oil required can be reduced by half as it uses only 50% fossil fuel feedstock in the form of epoxides and the remaining is sourced from the captured CO2. Hence for production of 1 ton of plastics, roughly around 1 ton of CO2 is the input required which translates into 250 Mt of CO2 as input for 250 Mt of plastics produced annually (Global plastics production is 250 Mt as of 2009).


Cement Industry is considered to be one of the largest emitter of CO2 next only to power plants. Calera, a California based company has devised a method to produce cement from CO2 and estimated that for every ton of cement produced ½ ton of CO2 is used. If all the cement produced globally is produced from CO2,       1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 would be required for producing 3 billion tonnes annually. (Global cement production is approximately 3 billion tonnes in 2009).


Gasoline is a hydrocarbon consisting of carbon and hydrogen which is derived from crude oil. A company by name Carbon sciences is developing a technology to transform CO2 to liquid fuels like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. According to their estimate for 3.5 tonnes of gasoline produced, 1 ton of CO2 is consumed in this process. If all the gasoline consumed globally is produced by this process (which is 4 billion tonnes annually), 1 giga tonne of CO2 would be consumed during the gasoline production process.

An estimate says that the total CO2 emitted is around 35 giga tonne, of which around 40% is contributed by power plants (which is 14 giga tonnes). Suppose all of gasoline, cement and plastics produced, use CO2 as feedstock, roughly around 2.5 giga tonnes of CO2 would be required. Hence in all, 18% of the total CO2 emitted by power plants can be used for the manufacturing of products like gasoline, cement and plastics. This technique along with algae based CO2 capture and EOR using CO2 appears to be promising techniques to sequester carbon dioxide in large amounts.

You can find elaborate description of each of these techniques of storing CO2 in products here

CCS to be included under CDM

Posted by on Friday, 7 January, 2011

The 6th conference of parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto protocol (CMP) concluded in the Mexican city of Cancun in the 2nd week of December. The much awaited announcement of including CCS projects under Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) was made in the penultimate session of the conference. The ministers backed the proposal to award carbon credits under CDM to those CCS projects that capture and trap emissions from factories and power plants before burying them underground.  The members were requested to frame the rules and other modalities of implementation before the Durban conference next year.

This is a significant move with regard to curbing CO2 emissions from industrial sources. Under the CDM, the industrialized countries that have obligations under Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can invest in carbon reduction projects in developing nations and claim carbon credits which are tradable in the open market. By including CCS under CDM, the developing countries receive direct financial incentives for developing and deployment of CCS technologies.

Countries like Australia, UK and UAE, who have a tremendous interest in making CCS commercial, were instrumental in getting CCS projects included under the CDM. For achieving an ambitious long term global target of reducing greenhouse gases emissions at 450 parts per million (ppm) or lower will require adoption of low carbon emission technologies by both developed and developing countries. Inclusion now will send out a positive signal to all countries and businesses interested in deployment of CCS technology. CDM provides incentives for technology cooperation between developed and developing countries for making CCS projects commercially viable. CCS under CDM provides a level playing field for CCS technologies along with other emission reduction technologies that are qualified under CDM for carbon credits.

The costs associated with the operation and maintenance of these installations is very high. This cost can be offset by the sale of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) used within CDM. A look at the economics would help us in understanding the merits of CCS under CDM. The price of carbon under CERs ranges between $10.4 and $43 (8 Euros to 33 Euros) per tonne of carbon. As per recent findings, 14 giga tonnes of CO2 is emitted annually into the atmosphere from the power plants. Assuming all these CO2 are captured and qualify for carbon credits under CDM, the CCS projects that qualify for carbon credits can generate an income of $240 billion.

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To read more: Carbon Capture and Storage , CDM