The Importance of Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) concept

Why moisture measurement is critical for the successful implementation of CCS

The recent announcement that 100 new licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea would be awarded has brought the UK Government under fire.

The timing was far from perfect.  It coincided with extreme temperatures and extensive wildfires around the Mediterranean, the hottest ever July since global records began 142 years ago, and the admission by António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, that ‘the era of global boiling has arrived’. 

The arguments put forward by the Government to defend the new licenses are based on the need for energy security, lower energy costs and the protection of jobs in the oil and gas sector.  In the words of then Energy Minister, Grant Shapps, the aim is to ‘max out’ the UK’s remaining reserves of oil and gas, which he believes will still be ‘compatible with the UK’s net zero targets’. 

The veracity of these claims is open to question.  They have been widely contested by scientists, environmental campaigners and other politicians.  Indeed, it can be argued that the Government anticipated this criticism as it simultaneously announced the award of two new Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) developments – Acorn in North-East Scotland and Viking in the Humber – as a means of damage limitation. 

If we ignore the political posturing and set aside for a moment the debate surrounding the need – or otherwise – for new fossil fuel extraction, it is clear that CCS has a crucial role to play as part of a range of measures that will collectively be necessary if the world is to mitigate the impact of climate change.    

CCS is growing fast – but not fast enough 

There was a 44 % increase in the development of carbon capture facilities from 2021 to 2022, according to the Global CCS Institute.  In its report ‘The Global Status of CCS 2022’, the Institute highlights that there were 30 CCS projects in operation, 11 under construction and 153 in development.  However, as CEO Jarad Daniels points out, despite the investment in CCS,

“global efforts to reduce emissions … are still grossly inadequate. Private capital must be met with government policy to unlock the full potential of CCS and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. Put simply, we must move from ambition to action.” 
Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) process

The Carbon Capture and Storage process

At present, over 70 % of all CCS capacity is used to enhance oil recovery from existing fields, where CO2 is injected to force fossil fuels to the surface.  According to research by BloombergNEF, this is likely to change rapidly in coming years.  The research company predicts that by 2030 around 66 % of carbon capture will be for storage at underground sites, with change being driven by legislation that incentivizes storage over utilization and by the growth of decarbonization projects.  It also stresses that for the world to meet its 2050 net zero goals, up to 2 billion metric tonnes of carbon needs to be captured by 2030; at present, global capture is just 43 million metric tonnes, or 0.1 % of global emissions.

Process efficiency, security and profitability 

The quality of Co2 extracted and captured is important; it is normally defined as part of the specifications for each CCS project.  These specifications will also include other impurities, which will vary considerably depending on the nature of the application and source gas and may include hydrocarbons and sulphur compounds. 

Potentially corrosive or condensable components must be reduced to an acceptable level, to prevent deterioration and avoid liquid formation.  Equally important is the efficiency with which Co2 is extracted, if optimum levels of gas are to be stored securely and, for commercial operators, profitably.

These requirements depend on the design and operation of the capture, compression, dehydration, transport and storage infrastructure, and on the accuracy and reliability of process measurement, monitoring and control instruments and systems. 

The ability to measure the concentration of moisture in the Co2 during dehydration and transport is of particular importance.  For example, dehydration systems are energy intensive and need to be managed within tight tolerances if operating costs are to be minimized, while transport pipelines and ancillary equipment can be prone to corrosion from moisture that condenses or combines with Co2 to form carbonic acid.  In each case, the critical factor is the precise and consistent measurement of moisture dew point to ensure that the CCS process functions efficiently, safely and profitably. 

Moisture measurement in CCS systems 

Given the criticality of dew-point measurement for the optimal operation of CCS systems, it is essential to choose instruments that are capable of providing accurate measurements, consistently and reliably, to comply with quality and regulatory standards and offer plant operators peace of mind.  Instruments such as the QMA601 and QMA401 quartz crystal moisture analyzers from Michell Instruments will detect very low levels of moisture content. 

Find out more about our range of process moisture analyzers.

With over 45 years’ experience in the development of innovative precision instruments, we are the application experts in humidity measurements for all Carbon Capture and Storage applications. If you would like to discuss your requirements, please contact our team today.  

For many years, human activities have released more Co2 into the earth’s atmosphere than can be removed by natural processes.  Atmospheric Co2 is now 50 % greater than before the industrial revolution; in the last 60 years alone, the concentration of Co2 has risen one hundred times faster than previous increases due to natural events, such as the end of the last ice age over 11,000 years ago.

Co2 is one of the so-called ‘Greenhouse gases’, which are leading to global warming and climate change. In 2021, Co2 accounted for over 60 % of the total atmospheric heating influence of these gases. 

Co2 in the atmosphere is also responsible for the rapid acidification of the oceans.  In the last 200 years, the pH of surface sea water has fallen from 8.21 to 8.10.  This may sound insignificant, but it is sufficient to upset the biological balance of sea life resulting in, for example, the inability of mollusks to build and maintain their hard shells. 

The good news is that countries around the world are taking action to meet this crisis, often using innovative or alternative technologies to reduce the volume of carbon released, capture or convert carbon, or store it away safely.  Ultimately, we have the ability to decelerate the process of global warming, through the imaginative use of a range of integrated solutions, of which CCS and CCU will play an increasingly important role. 

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