Conference session blog: Priority Research Directions for CCS Utilisation

This blog was produced by Manohar gudiyor veerabhadrappa

UKCCSRC programme conference was a different experience for me compared to the past conferences. Before this, I was involved with technical discussions related to CCS (mainly materials design and development) but never been part of or had little knowledge on the policy and implementation part of CCS. This conference has really helped me understand the complexity and uncertainties involved in successful implementation of CCS in the UK or elsewhere. I realised, both the government and industry have commitments and challenges to overcome for successful implementation of CCS technology.

As part of the discussion, the entire gathering was divided into groups and I was part of the CO2 utilisation theme. The group was a heterogeneous mix of students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and professors having a wide range of expertise in Chemistry, engineering, process modelling, life cycle/techno economical assessment and even mathematics! Perhaps, this shows the expertise and cooperation involved and needed for successful implementation of CCS to save the humanity from imminent effects of climate change. Paula Carey (Carbon8 Systems) kicked off the discussion by talking about CCUS cost challenge task force report and its lack of reference to utilisation and innovation! We also discussed about expertise or lack of utilisation in UK and steps needed to improve the situation. Cryogenic carbon capture generally assumed to be expensive technology, but not anymore!

 A successful entrepreneur shared his success story of capturing pure CO2 using cryogenic capture and its cost effectiveness as opposed to the general perception and strongly batted for its implementation at large scale for achieving CO2 utilisation as a stepping-stone towards CCS. At this point, some of the panel members raised the question about the purity of the CO2 gas captured and it effect on particular utilisation/application and the overall cost and effectiveness of the process. We discussed that purity of the CO2 captured decides its utilisation but not all group members agreed.

In response, one member explained their novel process for extracting magnesium from natural rocks and how they use it to capture large amounts CO2 to make useful chemicals out the process irrespective of purity of the CO2. It is a truly exciting and innovative process towards creating greener and better tomorrow. The micro algae – a new member of the CCS community! A researcher from Sheffield explained her project about using micro algae for CO2 capture and its subsequent utilisation for generating fuels from algae. I was aware about the algae’s role in developing bio diesel, but discussion made me realise that algae could be used for CO2 capture as well. 

Enhance oil recovery (EOR) is mature technology and has been in use since many decades. Can we classify this as CO2 utilisation?  The majority of the group voiced “NO” there was some feeble dissent to this and which was part of healthy discussion. Whether EOR is utilisation or not but certainly the process is helping in reducing some carbon footprints.  The whole process of utilisation is still under development compared to the matured capture technology. The Life cycle assessment (LCA) and techno economical assessments (TEA) of CO2 utilisation are still ongoing process. One panel member emphasised the need for consistency in technique while developing the tools for LCA and TEA evaluation.  When compared to capture and storage, utilisation seems to be in snail pace, why? Is it UK specific or global phenomenon?  Has industry lacked interest in this? There were several suggestions and wonderings. The lack of market, absence of policy frame work, low awareness among the community, uncertainty in investment. Obviously, cost is a factor when it comes to implementation at industrial scale. The availability of the cheaper feedstock like hydrocarbons as substitution to utilisation could be a spoiler. So, how can we give a push to CO2 utilisation?  Several voices with meaningful and insightful thought about how it can be done. Having legal policy framework, educating politicians across party lines, changing public perception, value propositions, and Taxing CO2/carbon credits. Bigger/larger and consistence demonstration of the technique from the scientific community from lab scale to pilot scale is essential to success of any idea. CO2 utilisation is no exception to this and this demonstration is lacking/at slow pace at this moment. At the same time support from the policy makers and market leaders is absolute necessary to develop any new technology as it happened in the case of renewable energy. Finally, the group comes out with set of immediate challenges facing the utilisation filed, some them are  public perception, value propositions, demonstration and R&D for CCU for using low purity CO2.