CCUS, the industry that will change industry
CCUS, the industry that will change industry
The world will need efficient, affordable and widely used carbon capture and storage technologies to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the 21st century. What's more, this new industry must grow with start-up speed to meet the climate challenge. Total and its industry partners are part of this race against the clock — or should we say thermometer?
The IPCC's special report on global warming of 1.5°C stresses the importance of achieving carbon neutrality. Though European Union members are still struggling to reach a unanimous agreement on this goal1, 24 of the 28 member states nonetheless share a desire to sharply curtail and offset their residual emissions using natural carbon sinks or carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).
At the G-20 summit held in Osaka, Japan in June 2019, the Leaders' Declaration2 referred to CCUS technologies directly, stressing continued efforts to accelerate their deployment as part of a broader response to climate change.
Eight3 EU nations aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030-2050. This will require slashing carbon emissions, notably by boosting energy efficiency and promoting renewable energies. CCUS technologies also need to be developed to capture residual carbon — which certain industries and energy production will always emit — at the source, and maybe even capture the carbon in the atmosphere.
The only alternative is to watch some industries, such as steelmaking, leave Europe and to accept "carbon leakage," or the offshoring of industrial production to other countries whose carbon emission rules are more forgiving.¹ On June 21, 2019, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia opposed increasing the E.U.’s greenhouse gas reduction goal.
² See Point 37: Energy.
³ Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
CCUS is a set of technologies that can remove the carbon dioxide contained in factory flue gases. The first step is to remove the flue gas resulting from production and mix it with a liquid; specifically, a solvent that will separate the CO2 from the rest of the stream. The solvent is then heated to recover pure carbon, which is subsequently compressed so that it can be stored in deep geological reservoirs or used to make new fuels or materials. In some industries, CCUS can reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%.
Barring the discovery of as-yet-unidentified disruptive technologies, the large-scale deployment of geological storage remains the only reliable solution for achieving carbon neutrality.
CCUS is a technology and an ambition within the reach of the oil and gas industry's resources and expertise. The industry has strong R&D capabilities, expertise in subsurface geology, knowledge of how to move liquids and gas, and — a critical point — a strong safety culture. CCUS is familiar ground.
In the last few years, R&D has focused on technologies under production conditions. Total and 10 other EU stakeholders4 launched the 3D project (which stands for DMX™ Demonstration in Dunkirk), in May 2019. At the ArcelorMittal steelmaking site in Dunkirk in northern France, carbon will be captured on its way out of the blast furnaces, at a rate of half a ton an hour. The project will also study conditioning, so the CO2 can be shipped to the North Sea for permanent storage in a geological reservoir.
Once the DMX™ process — which requires less energy used for capture — achieves proof of concept, sometime between now and 2025, the project could move into a second phase, boosting its capacity to 1.5 million tons of carbon a year. That's a commercial-scale operation, equal to the emissions of one ArcelorMittal blast furnace. A third and final phase in 2035 would extend it to all ArcelorMittal activities and the surrounding industrial region, transforming Dunkirk into a "carbon hub" able to collect and store up to 10 million tons of CO2 a year in the North Sea. "It takes a while to develop a large-scale sector like this from A to Z. We don't have a lot of time to hit the neutrality goal by the second half of the 21st century," warns David Nevicato, head of Total R&D's CCUS program.
Though the technology innovations still require proof of concept, cost remains the pivotal factor. Capture costs can amount to 75% of the cost of the entire chain. The DMX™ process, including integrating the energy into ArcelorMittal's existing facilities, will have a capture cost of under 30 euros per ton of carbon. "The figure for a complete carbon capture, transportation and storage chain is 1 billion euros for 1 million tons of CO2 stored per year. That's still too high, especially if you consider that we have to handle 5 billion to 10 billion tons a year by 2050 on a planetary scale. We must slash the costs of CCUS technologies within 10 years to set the stage for a slew of large-scale projects," says the Total research program manager. That's R&D's whole focus: finding reliable, affordable solutions in shorter and shorter timeframes.
Many countries are going down the same road. Norway is developing an end-to-end, large-scale chain with carbon capture for the Oslo waste incinerator and a cement plant. The resulting carbon, shipped by sea, is permanently stored in a large, deep saline aquifer5 in the North Sea. The U.S., still the CCUS leader, accounts for 80% of the world's carbon capture capacity. China issued an ambitious roadmap this year, setting out a target of storing that aims to store 700 million tons of carbon annually by 2050 and reducing the costs of technologies by two-thirds. In the future, industry will use carbon as a new resource to produce materials, chemicals and fuel.⁵ Geological formation made up of porous sedimentary rock containing water that may be more saline than seawater, and thus not fit to drink.
Such massive projects can only be implemented collaboratively. That's why CCUS is a priority of the OGCI, which comprises 13 companies producing 30% of the world's oil and gas. "It's a nascent industry and we're involved in it alongside partners," says David Nevicato. "Total wants to be recognized for its leadership and ability to innovate around CCUS."
It's a real industry, comparable in size to that of oil and gas by 2050. And a real challenge, since heavy industry isn't as agile as the digital or service sectors, despite its increasing use of digital modeling to succeed. "Massive deployment is expected to start in 2030. Until then, we're in a cost-cutting and pre-industrial technology demonstration phase. Meaning that we must tear down the technical and business obstacles to CCUS development, while proving the technology's benefits for fighting global warming to our fellow citizens," concludes David Nevicato.
Acquired in 2017 by Total, GreenFlex has strengthened our solutions and expertise in energy efficiency. The mid-sized business was given two tasks for the 3D project: to help with communications and education targeting expert and non-expert audiences and to work on the project's environmental impact, notably by improving overall energy performance through heat recovery.
"The 3D project will have to use only small amounts of energy to be viable and efficient. We're also assessing the process's environmental impact, in terms of both resources and emissions. Recovering some of the site's heat will also improve overall energy and environmental performance," says Thibault Ben Khelil, who heads up consulting at GreenFlex.
The Dunkirk project is expected to reduce energy use by 30% compared to similar projects.