Author: Zara Qadir

BLOG: Reducing the costs for Carbon Capture and Storage

12235378406_e25379dc47_o copyThis event blog was written by Sara Budinis, a research associate at the Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI). 

Last Thursday, I attended a thought-provoking event which covered the role for research and development (R&D) in delivering cost-competitive Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects in the UK in the 2020s.

This particular topic was of special interest to me as the SGI’s second White Paper (due to be published in the Spring of 2016) will review and discuss the costs of CCS when applied to power generation and industrial applications.

The workshop was arranged by KTN Knowledge Transfer Network together with the APGTF, CCSA, Coal Research Forum and UKCCSRC.

It explored the challenges associated with second and third generation CCS projects and how R&D could help to solve these challenges, reduce costs and support the development of a sustainable supply chain.

The cost of CCS is one of the main challenges to its development in the UK and worldwide. There is a variety of metrics to express CCS costs. The most common ones include the cost of carbon (£/CO2, which can be avoided, captured or abated carbon) and cost of electricity (£/MWh), which is used when you are dealing with CCS applied to power generation.

When delivering new technology, its cost decreases along a “learning curve”.  So, a First Of A Kind (FOAK) plant obviously involves a high economic risk. Exploring ways to reduce the capital and operating costs of CCS from the FOAK level to the NOAK (nth of a kind) level is of great interest for industry, government and academia.


Below are some highlights from the day:-

  • Luke Warren, from CCSA, highlighted the lack of an enabling policy framework as one of the main challenges to the development of CCS in the UK, which must move toward a low carbon economy. He commented on the need for a long term sensible energy policy. Because of the strong interest of the UK Government towards the consumers, CCS and carbon reduction in general must be cost effective and represent a good “value for money” as an investment for the future.
  • Jeremy Carey from UKCCSRC talked about the role of academics in the development of Carbon Capture and Storage and pointed at the importance of basic research at every stage. Moreover he believes that current technology rather the new technology must be involved in order to achieve concrete outcomes. This is because of the little time window between the present and 2020.
  • Andrew Green from Energy Technologies Institute: CCS is less expensive than other option for the reduction of CO2 emissions and moreover can be combined with biomass technologies in order to have negative carbon emissions. CCS must be applied to the power sector as well as to the industrial sector. He highlighted some key actions including the implementation of both Peterhead and Whiterose CCS projects, and the need for early investment in storage appraisal and further investments by 2020.

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BLOG: Tackling methane’s contribution to climate change

A blog by Dr Paul Balcombe from the IPIECA-OGCI Workshop.

On Monday 12th October, I presented at a workshop in Paris which was focussed on understanding methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain. ItOGCI IPIECA was a conference organised by IPIECA and OGCI, who are both voluntary initiatives set up by major oil and gas producers to share knowledge on emissions reductions.

It was great to get a chance to present the work of the Sustainable Gas Institute on methane and carbon dioxide emissions from the supply chain to all these new faces: about 30 new perspectives from industry, as well as some from government, academia and NGOs.

The aim of the conference was really to pool together all of our knowledge on what we currently know about methane emissions from the natural gas industry. The idea is that we can identify the most important gaps in our knowledge that we need to fill and to discuss how we can start to do this.

Key headlines

One of the highlights of the conference was a talk by Prof Myles allenmylesAllen from the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. He delved into detail about the complicated issue of how potent methane is compared to carbon dioxide in terms of climate change. Methane is much more potent in the short term but doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere, so has a much lower lasting effect than CO2. Prof Allen says that, because of this, we need to make sure that we focus on both methane and CO2: if we don’t reduce CO2, we will never stabilise our greenhouse gas emissions; but if we don’t reduce methane, we will have a much larger global temperature when we do reach the peak.

Steve-Hamburg_D4B8294_287x377Another eye-opener was from a talk by Steve Hamburg, who heads up the work done by the Environmental Defense Fund on direct methane measurement all across the US. It was great to hear him talk so passionately about the massive task of emissions measurement and reduction. One of the take home messages Steve made was that reducing methane emissions is extremely important because this reduces the speed that we are warming the climate (whereas reducing CO2 reduces the overall temperature).

The key challenges that we summarised from the end of the first day were:

  • We need to increase methane emissions data collection. We have seen a big rise in data collection in the US which is great, but we need this to continue to other regions and more downstream emissions measurement.
  • It is clear that emissions are highly variable and it is vital that data represents the high distribution of emissions.
  • It is also vital that data is validated independently. Much work is going on by the industry to measure and in future publish emissions data, but Capturethe data must be validated so that transparency is maximised.
  • There is real potential to reduce emissions further and the technology is there. The key is to do this in as low cost as possible and to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to detect super emitters quickly.

If you are interested in finding out more about the subject, read our recent paper (or a short summary) on the challenge of methane and CO2 emissions in the natural gas supply chain.


Sasha’s work experience at the SGI

Sustinable Gas InstituteEvery year, the Sustainable Gas Institute offers a unique placement opportunities to students to come and work in the research Institute for the summer.

In July, Sasha Dorai, a third year geology student from Imperial College, helped us prepare the groundwork for a large systemic review around the issue of “unburnable carbon” – a topic that has gained increasing  interest among environmentalists, energy researchers, industry and investors over the last few years.

We interviewed Sasha about her career aspirations and about her work in investigating this highly debated issue.

What first captured your interest in studying geology?

What I like most about geology is that it involves the study of past, present and future landscapes. The subject also combines a broad range of scientific topics I’m interested in from hydrocarbons, minerals and other natural resources to tectonic activity and climate change.

How did you find out about the Institute, and what first sparked you interest in working here?

The Institute Director, Professor Nigel Brandon was my lecturer for one of my modules. He told us about the Institute, and the research being carried out.
Last summer, I had an internship with BP where I gained a broad insight into projects carried out in industry.  So this year, I really wanted to further this experience with something a little different by working on an academic research project instead.

So can you tell us a little more about the project?

I am currently assisting Sara Budinis, a research assistant at Sustainable Gas Institute (SGI), with a systematic review of literature for a new and upcoming White Paper relating to a topic known as the ‘unburnable carbon’.

Can you explain what you mean by the ‘unburnable carbon’?

The world has a constrained greenhouse gas emissions budget to ensure that global average surface temperature does not rise more than 2⁰C.

So to stay within the global carbon budget there needs to be a significant reduction in the energy consumption. This is known as ‘unburnable carbon’ – reserves that cannot be combusted if the global carbon budget is not to be exceeded. In order to mitigate the effect of climate change, companies need to either reduce energy consumption or develop modern technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) or other methods to store carbon in reservoirs and underground storage.

What exactly is a ‘White Paper’ and why do you think a systematic review is important right now on this topic?

A ‘White Paper’ discusses controversial topics and debated topics in science today, often providing recommendations to policy makers.

Although, there has been some research into the area of a ‘unburnable carbon’, so far there has not yet been a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the all the evidence covering the full breadth of the subject area, especially in relation to how technology can have an influence. It’s also a relatively new concept and therefore needs further enquiry.

GeoscienceWhat did the research actually involve on a day-to-day basis?

The actual analysis involved me scrutinising important databases and search engines; academic journals published by institutions, industry and government websites.

The topics and terms, I was looking for included fossil fuels, unburnable fuels, reserves, the carbon budget, climate change and many more. My search covered technologies and methods including carbon capture and sequestration; a technology used to capture carbon dioxide emissions produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, electricity generation and other industrial processes.

I also looked at a lot of non-peer-reviewed grey literature from organisations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the United States Department of Energy as well as other government websites.

What do you think is the overall importance of this project?

The ‘White Paper’ explores economic aspects as well as focusing on scientific and technological aspects – the use and role of hydrocarbons.

The concept is important to science as well as society as we are in an era where we are currently heavily reliant upon hydrocarbons.

What have you enjoyed most about the research and working at the SGI?

The research was extremely interesting and I learnt a lot along the way. It was good to also experience working in a smaller organisation – everyone at the Institute was extremely warm and welcoming.

Working at the Sustainable Gas Institute has allowed me to also broaden my horizons and learn new things – including new technologies.

What do you plan to next year?

My plan this year is to start a Masters in Petroleum Geoscience, also at Imperial.

About the Sustainable Gas Institute

The Sustainable Gas Institute is a multidisciplinary institute which is exploring the role of gas in the future world energy mix. The SGI publishes papers relating to controversial issues and important topics in science including sustainable energy systems. The researchers expect to finish the ‘White Paper’ report in Spring 2016.