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CCS: A Status Update

Oilfield Technology,

Around the world, governments are tackling carbon emissions head-on with ambitious carbon capture and storage (CCS) programmes and the race is hotting up to lead the world on this relatively new technology and to harness its economic potential.

EICDataStream, the EIC’s database that tracks more than 8000 projects across the energy supply chain, shows that there are currently 43 active and 32 proposed projects that incorporate CCS technology across the world, totalling US$ 74 billion and US$ 30 billion respectively.

Canada is proving to be one of the global hotspots for CCS activity with 12 (active and future) projects on the table, eight of which are in the province of Alberta.

Alberta is uniquely suited for CCS as the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin has housed oil and gas reservoirs kilometres deep below the earth’s surface for billions of years. These have now been depleted by conventional drilling and can be safely used for storing CO2.

Currently, four of the active projects in Alberta follow an extensive year-long selection process which saw 54 project proposals whittled down to four projects which are now in the grant agreement stage with the province with agreements expected to be finalised this year.

The Government of Alberta views CCS as a long-term investment and the funding will be paid out over a 15 year time span throughout each project lifecycle. Alberta’s goal is to have projects that would use the full range of the technology – capturing, transporting and storing.

Norway is leading the way in developing the world’s largest full scale CCS facility in the Statoil-operated Mongstad refinery, where the aim is to capture 100,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2012, with a final capacity of 1.3 million tonnes in 2018. There have been recent reports of spiralling costs due to uncertainty in one of the technologies used to separate CO2 from flue gas but the Norwegian government remains fully committed to the project with the test centre for capture technology currently more than 50% complete. 

Activity is intensifying in The United Arab Emirates where there are three active projects worth US$ 4.3 billion, all with a CCS component, including the US$ 3 billion feasibility study to identify and evaluate options for onshore and offshore CO2 capture from major sources in Abu Dhabi. The facility will have a capacity of 20 bcm per year, with the CO2 being secured from eight industrial plants, including power plants and crude oil refineries. If successful, the programme will be rolled out in Abu Dhabi, and additional schemes could be introduced at a rate of one per year.

In the UK, earlier this month, The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) confirmed that gas-fired power plants will now be eligible for the £9 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration programme, which was initially only open to coal-fired power plants. The UK Government is committed to funding four commercial-scale CCS projects with up to £1 billion being made available for the first commercial scale CCS demonstration project. Scottish Power is the only remaining entrant in the UK government’s CCS competition.

Also of significance in the UK, is the National Grid infrastructure project which will see  carbon dioxide emissions from UK power stations and other large point sources piped for storage in geological formations beneath the North Sea. Suitable storage sites include saline aquifers or depleted gas fields. The group is developing plans to construct a US$ 3.2 billion carbon transport and storage network around the Humber estuary in Yorkshire, where five of Britain's largest coal and gas-fired power stations are located. This has the potential to reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by 60 million tonnes per year.

Other significant projects can be found all over the globe from Brazil and the USA which has nine active and 10 future projects through central Europe to India and China and Australia.

It is important to note that there are also some question marks over the long-term future of CCS. Recently, quite a few projects have been cancelled and put on hold, for example Kingsnorth, Hatfield and Barendrecht. Also, in the UK, the recent CSR announcements and lack of a forward funding mechanism have increased the uncertainty over the future of CCS in the UK which is being mirrored in other EU countries.

What is certain is that the next few years are crucial to the race to prove the commercial viability of CCS technology.

Author: Mike Major, CEO, Energy Industries Council (EIC).

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