Efforts Increase to Lasso Carbon Dioxide

New installations and technology development promise continuing progress

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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The implications of the U.S. government’s decision to pull out of the Paris
Climate Accord stir heated debate. Regardless, many American chemical companies — driven by shareholder demands, concerns over public image and, sometimes, pure economics — likely will continue to pay significant attention to greenhouse gas emissions. (See: “Look Beyond the Paris Accord Pullout.”) In addition, the worldwide focus on developing carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technologies remains strong.

According to the Global CCS Institute, Melbourne, Australia, 40 large-scale CCS facilities are in various stages of development, including 17 already in operation. In fact, notes the institute, over 200 million metric tons of CO2 have been injected securely into the sub-surface since the early 1970s — a powerful counter to those arguing the technology is experimental or untried, it contends.

Tellingly, two of the major CCS projects to come onstream in 2017 are based in the U.S.

Major Step

In January, Petra Nova, a joint venture between NRG Energy, Houston, and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration, Tokyo, started CO2-capture operations at the W.A. Parish power plant near Houston. The project can capture more than 5,000 t/d of CO2, which then is used to boost production at the West Ranch oilfield that is jointly owned by NRG, JX Nippon and Hilcorp, Houston. Petra Nova estimates oil production in the field will rise over the next few years from 300 bbl/d to 15,000 bbl/d once CO2-driven enhanced oil recovery gathers pace.

Key to the whole project is the Kansai Mitsubishi CO2-recovery process developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Tokyo. This includes patented KS-1 amine solvent and special proprietary equipment (Figure 1).

“KS-1 is a sterically hindered amine, while the most common amine used for carbon dioxide capture, monoethanolamine, is a primary amine. KS-1 provides higher absorption capacity, lower energy requirement and more oxidation and corrosion resistance as compared to conventional amines. Less amine makeup and steam consumption are required,” says an MHI spokesman.

The Petra Nova plant also features proprietary equipment and process innovations developed by MHI, he adds. For example, adaptations made to reduce solvent oxidation and amine emissions from the absorber effectively decrease amine loss. In addition, an energy-saving process around the regenerator cuts steam consumption.

The process itself underwent small-scale pilot plant testing at MHI’s R&D center in Hiroshima, Japan, before being scaled up at a larger pilot plant in Osaka.

A major stepping stone from this to the Petra Nova application came in 2011 with a project at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry, Bucks, Ala. The world’s first fully integrated coal power and geological storage project, it captures over 500 t/d of CO2 .

“All the MHI technologies applied to Petra Nova plant were successfully demonstrated at the Plant Barry, showing high operability and high efficiency of CO2 capture while minimizing energy consumption,” notes the spokesman.

The flue gas at the Alabama plant was challenging because it contained SOx, NOx and particulates that typically exacerbate amine losses and degrade CO2 capture efficiency, he explains.

“The countermeasures developed by MHI significantly reduced the impact caused by such impurities contained in dirty flue gas. As a result, MHI applied the experiences and lessons learned from the Plant Barry project and successfully scaled up by ten times at Petra Nova.”

Meanwhile, April saw the launch of the world’s first large-scale bio-energy with CCS project. The facility in Chicago can capture and store approximately 1 million t/y of CO2; it is operated by bio-ethanol producer Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Chicago, and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy. Known as the Illinois Industrial CCS (ICCS) project, it’s also the first U.S. CCS facility to store substantial quantities of CO2 in a geological formation (Figure 2). ICCS project partners handled the design, construction, demonstration and integrated operation of all the CCS processes involved.

Norwegian Initiative

Also this year, Aker Solutions, Fornebu, Norway, won contracts for conceptual studies for carbon capture at an ammonia plant in Porsgrunn, Norway, of Yara International, Oslo, and a cement production facility in Brevik, Norway, of Norcem, Oslo.

Yara and Norcem are among three companies in the running to receive Norwegian government funding to build and operate a full-scale carbon capture plant. The government aims to fund at least one of the plants, which would be operational by 2022, as part of an overall NOK 1.3-billion ($156-million) investment in CCS technologies.

The Yara study will involve designing and developing a capture plant for the reformer flue gas and also will include liquefaction. The study for Norcem will focus on designing a carbon capture plant that’s integrated with the cement factory, including a process to turn the CO2 into liquid, together with storage facilities that can be used before shipping; the plant will have a capacity of about 400,000 t/y of CO2. Both conceptual studies should be completed in September.

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