Selling CO2 sequestration

At a well-attended, if small scale, industry conference held recently in London, BP PLC CO2 Program Director Gardiner Hill gave delegates an update of progress on a nine-company collaborative project to develop technology for the capture and geological storage of carbon dioxide.

Jul 6th, 2001

At a well-attended, if small scale, industry conference held recently in London, BP PLC CO2 Program Director Gardiner Hill gave delegates an update of progress on a nine-company collaborative project to develop technology for the capture and geological storage of carbon dioxide.

Hill may have been preaching to the converted in describing the venture, known as the CO2 Capture Project, but was nonetheless convincing of the rationale and potential for the project to bring "at least one large-scale application into operation by 2010."

The goals of the $26 million project are plainly ambitious: cutting the cost of CO2 capture and storage (C&S) by 50% for retrofit applications and 75% in newbuilds, while proving to external stakeholders that storage is "safe, measurable, and verifiable."

Not a short order, but, as Hill notes, the companies backing the project-BP, Chevron Corp., ENI SPA, Norsk Hydro AS, PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd., Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Statoil AS, Suncor Energy Inc., and Texaco Inc.-have good reason to be involved.

Unique position

Field operators, Hill argued, find themselves in an unique position in answering concerns surrounding the issue of climate change and CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. For energy companies not only have decades of experience in managing geologic reservoirs-a prime location, once depleted, for CO2 storage-but also often control both the source of emissions and the "sink."

That the technology potentially applied to C&S is meat and drink to these same companies goes without saying. The technology being advanced toward commerciality through the project, Hill emphasized, will be developed against "specific application" scenarios: 300 Mw of natural gas-fired combined-cycle power generation, multihued refinery heaters and boilers, petroleum coke gasification, and 30-50 Mw of simple-cycle gas turbines.

The project will also, necessarily, look at a range of points of capture from combustion sources, including post-combustion capture from exhaust gas, precombustion decarbonization of hydrocarbon fuels, and oxygen-enriched combustion of hydrocarbons fuels.

JIP progress

Progress-for what is essentially a joint industry project-has been rapid so far. Having formed the JIP in late 1999, the project team has completed screening prospective technologies and is awarding development contracts to some 30 candidate providers in four areas.

Keeping to schedule, the project, which has finalized cofunding from the US Department of Energy, the Norwegian Research Council, and the European Union, will have narrowed the technologies being developed to a "favored" few and roll out a demonstration project by 2003.

The CO2 Capture Project's progress is doubtless good news, not only to those who claim a link between global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, but also for an industry which has regularly recognized that it has much ground to recover in improving its public profile.

The project might provide a singular opportunity for a group of the world's largest oil companies-and the absence of ExxonMobil Corp. and TotalFinaElf SA cannot go unnoticed-to offer the mass populace a view of a side of the industry not often seen-because not often publicized. The hope must be that talk of "continued constructive dialog with external stakeholders" does not fall on deaf, demotic ears.

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