Total’s carbon capture project in France

This entry was posted by Wednesday, 30 June, 2010
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In January, in the midst of the Jurançon vineyards in southwest France, in the Lacq gas facility, the oil conglomerate Total started a CO2 storage experiment. Total plans to inject 120000 tonnes of CO2 into a depleted natural gas reservoir which is 4500 meters below the ground in a porous formation of sedimentary rock which extends over 2 sq. km.

Total has invested $72m in the 30MW fossil-fuel pilot carbon-capture system at Lacq, which is one-tenth of the size of the projected industrial plant. It captures 15% of the CO2 emissions from the boilers at the Lacq gas works. If similar technology were fitted to the whole facility and adequate storage capacity were available, all the CO2 could be neutralised.

Total has refurbished one of five boilers at its methane processing plant (due to close in 2013) and converted it into a CO2-capture demonstrator. It is the first plant in Europe and the second worldwide – in October last year Alstom commissioned a similar system in West Virginia – to experiment a complete process for capturing, transporting and storing CO2, the main GHG.

But, as the company acknowledges, capture comes at a cost, in energy and emissions. Trapping 100 tonnes of CO2 produces 20 tonnes of emissions – however, the overall result is positive. The capture process alone represents two-thirds of the overall cost, from start to finish, as much as $170 a ton of sequestered gas. Total is therefore concentrating on how to reduce these costs.

The tricky part is trapping the gas underground. Total has so far injected less than 2,000 tonnes into the cavity. Project manager Nicolas Aimard says “The Rousse reservoir is ideal for storage”.
After five months’ experimentation the engineers say they are “satisfied the technology is sufficiently robust”. Total plans to study this for five years, and then carry on monitoring to check that the gas is permanently trapped and there is no risk of it escaping to the surface. The France-Nord scheme, coordinated by Total, will be testing the storage potential of deep underground reserves of brackish water unsuitable for human consumption.

France’s Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) has selected three further projects to research carbon capture and storage. Ademe has allocated $54m to the four projects, only a small proportion of the total cost. The aim is to investigate different technologies. France is not the only country to be counting on CCS technology. Some 150 projects are already under way worldwide. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says CCS could neutralize one-fifth of anthropogenic CO2 emissions by 2050, and the International Energy Agency hopes to see 3,400 CCS plants by then, stopping about one-third of current emissions.

This story first appeared in Le Monde.

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