Maersk Oil has acquired licences to Clean Energy System’s Oxy-Fuel technology that allows zero-emission power generation in combination with oil and gas projects.
Maersk Oil is an international oil and gas company with operated production of about 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day from fields in the Danish and UK North Sea, offshore Qatar, in Algeria and in Kazakhstan. Maersk Oil exploration activities are ongoing in Denmark, UK, Norway, Angola, Brazil, the US Gulf of Mexico, Greenland and Oman. Maersk Oil and its subsidiary companies are part of the Danish A.P.Moller – Maersk Group. Maersk Oil was established in 1962, when it was awarded a concession for oil and gas exploration and production in Denmark.
Clean Energy Systems, of Rancho Cordova, CA, specialises in the development of zero emissions commercial power plants using an oxy-fuel combustion process. The power plants use oxygen and various fuels to produce power that results in zero atmospheric emissions with carbon dioxide and water as byproducts. The company owns an extensive portfolio of patents and a Bakersfield, CA, power plant, used to further develop the oxy-fuel technology.
The Oxy-Fuel technology uses pure oxygen to combust natural gas or other fuels to produce water, electricity and carbon dioxide (CO2). Water and power can be provided to consumers, while the captured CO2 can be used for Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery projects, ensuring a zero emission operation.
“The agreement with CES pushes the boundaries of energy technology allowing Maersk Oil to create unique value for potential partners and governments. This follows our long tradition of finding innovative solutions to challenging oil and gas fields. The technology enables power generation free from CO2 emission, while boosting oil and gas extraction in difficult or mature fields.” said Pieter Kapteijn, Director of Technology and Innovation at Maersk Oil.
“We are excited to work with Maersk Oil to deploy the CES technology on a commercial scale in oil and gas projects,” said Keith Pronske, President and CEO of Clean Energy Systems.
What is special about the idea is that most of the necessary systems – a combustor, a turbine, a generator, and a condenser, can be installed in a single plant, which is small enough to fit inside 3 x 40 foot box containers.
The only other piece of plant required is an air separation unit, a much larger piece of plant, which needs to be kept a good distance from the combustor for safety reasons.
This means that the overall capital cost of the system can be much cheaper than the “conventional” concept for carbon capture for gas.
The process can be used on and offshore and is well suited to low quality gas fields containing CO2. The CO2 is separated from condensed steam after combustion – a cost-effective alternative to other carbon capture options – and can then be re-injected into a field to increase the amount of oil or gas recovered.
With the Maersk Oil concept, the gas enters a relatively small plant which can be close to the well (if it is on land) or close to where the gas comes to shore. The outputs from the plant are electricity (which is relatively easy to transport) and carbon dioxide (which can be sent directly back down neighbouring oil or gas well). There might even be a customer for the water (from the reaction of gas with oxygen) if it is in a desert environment.
With only a relatively small plant required on land, it seems likely that there should be less local objections to installing it, compared to (for example) a new gigawatt scale power plant.
Maersk Oil plans to spend 2-3 years further developing the technology and is looking for launch projects.
Combustion technology: The combustor is also much simpler than a conventional gas combustion plant.The combustion is carefully controlled, with oxygen and natural gas or other fuels fed in exactly the right quantities for maximum efficiency. The technology for the combustor was derived from the space rocket industry, where the combustion has to be very carefully controlled to ensure that the rocket combustion products are ejected from the combustor in a stable and safe way. The key is to achieve proper mixing of the O2, fuel and water to ensure that the flame is stable and the temperature controlled.
Clean Energy Systems won a USD $30m grant from the US Department of Energy to further develop the technology and demonstrate its integration with a gas turbine and generator.
Air separation unit: The system also requires an air separation unit to separate air into oxygen and nitrogen by cryogenic cooling. This is a mature commercial process. The air separation unit is much bigger than the other equipment and must be positioned away from the rest of the process for safety reasons. Maersk is looking at installing the air separation units offshore. “It seems to be feasible without too much development work,” Mr Kapteijn says.
Making it viable: For the system to be feasible, at a minimum you would need a gas well, a customer willing to buy an additional steady supply of electricity at the megawatt scale, and nearby depleted oil or gas wells which could use a steady supply of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery or enhanced gas recovery. The system could only work if everything could be operated continuously – so there was a continuous supply of gas into the system, electricity was generated continuously, and the carbon dioxide produced would continuously be pumped into a gas or oil field. This means that there would need to be a customer in need of a continuous supply of electricity (“base load”), or the electricity would need to be stored in some way.
Maersk Oil also envisages providing the system in partnerships with national oil companies, whereby it would agree to produce gas fields effectively (using enhanced gas recovery) and provide electricity, without adding a single molecule of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, even if the gas fields themselves are already high in carbon dioxide.
Maersk Oil’s licence of this technology can present solutions to partners and governments, which increasingly support the development of zero emission power generation alongside oil and gas production to meet global energy demand.