Not a lot of hot air

Posted on 4 Oct 2010 by The Manufacturer

What does the future hold for carbon capture technology? David Bleackley, strategic business manager at AspenTech discusses the key role of process modelling solutions

The most recent G8 summit has agreed to set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050.

With the European Union committed to helping to drive reductions, momentum is building behind the push to investigate the potential of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to achieve emissions cuts. In line with this, the European Commission recently announced the launch of a new tool supporting early large-scale demonstration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

Lauded as the first ever network of its kind, the CCS Network Project incorporates CCS demonstration projects that will boost knowledge and understanding of ways in which CCS can contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The venture is likely to contribute further to the ongoing process of moving CCS from a technology with potential to a viable commercial proposition.

As the Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger puts it: “CCS is one of the key technologies that we need to develop today to make the necessary deep cuts in CO2 emissions from the energy sector in the coming decades.”

Exploring the potential of CCS and ultimately developing the technology is even more important when you consider that the current trend across the European Union is towards tougher emissions targets.

CCS certainly has great potential in helping to achieve emissions reductions. Today, there are growing commercial, legislative and technological drivers behind its development. A recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), “Technology roadmaps carbon capture and storage”, suggests that without CCS, overall costs to reduce emissions to 2005 levels by 2050 increase by 70%. The roadmap includes an ambitious CCS growth path in order to achieve this GHG mitigation potential envisioning 100 projects globally by 2020 and over 3,000 projects by 2050.

Carbon capture and storage – a UK industry?

The new Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in the UK is particularly positive about CCS. It has agreed to continue with existing proposals for public sector investment in the technology at four coal-fired power stations. It also plans to establish an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations from being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the standard, while also introducing a floor price for carbon and creating a green investment bank.

If the UK develops its potential to take a lead in the further evolution of the CCS industry, then development work and technology expertise is more likely to be based here as well. That will create jobs within the UK in a new industry that will grow rapidly over the coming decades.

When it comes to managing the development of CCS, AspenTech’s modelling technology is standing out from the competition. Engineers are able to use the technology to more accurately predict behaviour of substances, thus helping to reduce risk, minimising design contingencies and thereby reducing associated costs.

While businesses explore the CCS potential, there is much that heavy industry sectors can do to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions over the long-term through the more traditional practice of efficient energy management of their plants and assets. Their contribution is potentially significant. A recent report produced by The Climate Group and The Office of Tony Blair indicates that approximately 19% of total savings in energy related emissions to 2050 could come from industry.

In this context, it makes sound business sense for organisations to look at energy efficiency and ways in which they can optimise their energy consumption. This effectively will reduce operational expenses, drive bottom-line improvements and improve business performance. After all, for many of these companies energy costs represent the second largest drain on budgetary resources after raw materials.