Why is this research needed?
Post-combustion CO2 capture (PCC) plants are the basis for a number of full-scale projects in the current wave of UK CCS deployment. Applications actively being considered include multiple gas-fired and biomass power plants, incinerators, refineries and steam-methane reformer retrofits. PCC plants are also widely applicable globally, particularly for retrofit applications.
To date, globally, several large PCC projects have been built, using generally similar approaches. But, because major aspects of design, construction and operational details have been treated as proprietary, so far only very limited knowledge exchange has been able to take place, both from and to the projects.
An approach to enhance knowledge exchange and cost-reduction, particularly for government-supported projects, is to use ‘open-technology’, meaning that the operators of a post-combustion capture (PCC) plant are in full control of the technology used rather than purchasing a ‘black box’ unit. The plant specification will include a design solvent, but the use of improved solvents, proprietary or other, in the future will be facilitated. Operators will also readily be able to work with a range of suppliers and researchers to modify and upgrade the PCC plant hardware when in service, for rapid learning and cost-reduction.
In addition, if a generic, non-proprietary solvent is used as the design solvent then the project becomes ‘open-access’ (OA) so there need be no wide-reaching restrictions on knowledge transfer to and from the project, as has been the case with PCC projects and studies using proprietary solvents. If any intrinsic extra costs of using an open-access solvent arise they are expected to be modest.
The value of an OA approach has been recently highlighted by BEIS in a study on ‘Start-up and Shut-down times of power CCUS facilities‘. Current US DOE FEED study awards include both projects based on proprietary amine based solvents and MEA being used as a non-proprietary, open-access, open technology solution. Extensive details of a FEED study by Bechtel using a non-proprietary solvent are also available on the UKCCSRC website. For the basis of this study, MEA is to be used for the basis of design, at approximately 35 %wt concentration.
What does the research hope to achieve?
The team involved in this proposal are linked with both the BEIS and the US DOE FEED studies above and other UK PCC deployment activities and will use funding to build on these studies to cover additional topics of immediate policy and commercial interest, in particular enhanced capture levels (95% and above) for net-zero. Broad dissemination of OA PCC information and discussions between industry and academic experts will also be supported by open workshops and detailed information on the UKCCSRC website. As well as contacts with UK industry the applicants are also able to input to ACT projects on PCC (ALIGN and LAUNCH), to the CCUS Mission Innovation initiative and programmes in China, Mexico and other key UK CCUS partners overseas.