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All-Energy Conference and Exhibition, SECC, Glasgow 6-7 May 2015

Posted: 8 May 2015 By: Dr Lesley Sloss

The All-Energy conference (www.all-energy.co.uk) is a bit of a misnomer in that it covers all energy other than coal. The focus is almost entirely on renewable energy but there is a nod to fossil fuels in the sessions which concentrate on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Previous All-Energy meetings have been held in Aberdeen and so, in this move to Glasgow, the meeting opened itself up to a new and wider audience. Over 4,000 delegates made their way around hundreds of exhibition booths which covered everything from pellet-fired domestic stoves to projects on sustainable energy efficient cities. As with most exhibitions, delegates found themselves at the end of the day, a little tired and weighed down by a bag full of free pens, keyrings and diaries. But a drinks reception at the Glasgow Science Centre perked them all up again, ready for day 2. 

In addition to the myriad of vendor booths, there were a number of sessions and side events focussing on different areas of the renewable energy sector. Some of these took place in cordoned off areas of the noisy exhibition floor in so called "silent seminars". The speakers used microphones to feed their talk directly to earpieces worn by the delegates around them, an approach I had never seen before but it seemed to work.

Side events on wave energy, biomass combustion, solar arrays and so on attracted different audiences but by far the most popular session was on energy storage, so much so that the 300 seat auditorium became full well in advance of the session start time. By contrast, the sessions on CCS (carbon capture and storage) were attended by 60-80 delegates at most, which is unfortunate as they were extremely interesting and up to date. I review some of the most interesting talks in the paragraphs below:

Andrew Purvis of the Global CCS Institute reminded us of the necessity of CCS as part of the 2 Degree Scenario  (2DS:- the IEA scenario in which CO2 emissions are controlled to the point where the average increase in global temperature is limited to 2 degrees celsius). In order for us to comply with 2DS, CCS will be required to facilitate 14% of the CO2 reduction target. This equates to a significant amount of CCS at commercial scale. To date, only 12 projects are in place globally, capturing a total of 20 Mt CO2/y. These include two enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects in Norway and the first coal CCS plant - Boundary Dam - in Canada. However, if we take planned and operating CCS projects together, the total is much more reassuring at 54. 27 of these projects are in the USA, 11 in China, 9 in the EU, 2 in the Gulf (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and 5 elsewhere in the world. The large number of projects in the USA is down to the appropriateness of EOR. Boundary Dam also is currently mainly disposing of its CO2 via EOR but does have geological storage planned too. The majority of current projects favour the inclusion of EOR, for the obvious financial incentive, but the move towards geological storage is expected to dominate in the next decade. 

Andrew described 2015/2016 as a watershed year for CCS. The will is there but, until now, the opportunity has been challenging. There needs to be greater funding, policy parity and increased speed of development. Andrew seemed optimistic that the new EU commissioner was "pro-CCS", that the new EU Parliament would also be favourable, and that the UK government continues to be supportive. However, he introduced the analogy of the "door starting to close" in terms of timing and opportunity to allow CCS to be part of the 2DS solution. 

Alan Jones of Pale Blue Dot Energy carried on the door closing analogy with a slightly more pessimistic opening. He emphasised that, historically speaking, the UK had contributed most, on a per capita basis, to CO2 emissions as a country and should therefore be working to lead the CCS solution. He provided a rather depressing list of the UK projects which have started and stalled over the last decade - the 2006 Peterhead/Shell project; the 2009 Hatfield project; the 2010 Kingsnorth/Eon project; and the 2010 Longannet project - all of which, he believes, failed for financial rather than technical reasons. In order to get future projects to be more successful, more projects need to be proposed and proposed soon. Lead up times are long and any project proposed now would be unlikely to be operational any time before 2020/2021. But for the 2DS scenario, the EU needs to meet 10 GW of CCS by 2030 - for this we need 30 two-year FEED studies completed before 2020. 

Chris Bryceland of Scottish Enterprise echoed this sense of urgency, opening with the Winston Churchill quote "the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago". DECC (the UK Dept of Energy and Climate Change) has a task force on CCS which has identified 19 EOR sites around the UK which could provide 2.4 billion extra barrels of oil in addition to providing significant CO2 storage. However, many of these sites are moving towards closure and the window of opportunity, echoing the door analogy, is closing fast.

Jelena Simjanovic of the Global CCS Institute, gave an overview of the EU CCS demonstration project network (www.ccsnetwork.eu). There are currently 4 projects in the network: - Don Valley (UK), Sleipner (NO), Campostilla (ES), and ROAD (NL). The network was established in 2009 by the European Commission (EC) to accelerate the deployment of CCS. The goal of 12 large scale CCS projects by 2015 will clearly not be attained, but movement continues in the right direction. The network is working well and has established a "trusting CCS community engaged in healthy information exchange". Compostilla have produced a public outreach programme which has been made available as a toolkit for public engagement elsewhere. Similarly the ROAD project has successfully completed the permitting process and will summarise lessons learned to pass on. This free exchange of information within the CCS community will be crucial to rapid development and deployment within the sector.

Bill Spence of Shell gave an excellent overview of the Peterhead CCS project in Aberdeen. The modernised gas powered power plant will work with the St Fergus terminal to send CO2 out to the Goldeneye oil platform for EOR and CO2 storage. 10-15 Mt of CO2 will be captured over a 10 year period, 90% of the CO2 from one turbine. The CCS system will be amine based which will require the construction of a new gas processing unit as well as a new gas boiler. The oil platform will also require modification to facilitate injection and 20 km of new gas pipeline will need to be built. Field work has been completed on the project and cost estimates are being finalised. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) was submitted in January this year, the licence is complete and the permit is being processed. Once this has all cleared it will take 400 people 30 months to build and complete the project. It is envisaged that the final decision from the government will come in 2017 and the project could be operational by 2019/2020. Part of the project requires Shell to document the work and to provide "knowledge deliverables" to feed into the learning curve within the CCS industry. 

Finally Graeme Dunn of Capture Power Ltd spoke on the other UK project - White Rose. This project involves the construction of a new ultra-supercritical oxyfuel coal fired plant (450 MW gross, 300 MW net clean power) next to the existing boilers at Drax in Yorkshire. 100% of the flue gas will be treated with 90% CO2 capture amounting to 2 Mt CO2/y. With the planned 10-15% biomass co-firing the plant will end up either CO2 neutral or even negative in terms of gross CO2 emissions. The CO2 captured will be pumped offshore for deep saline storage. The FEED project funding was awarded in 2013, construction should take 4-5 years and the operating phase is predicted to be 15-20 years, depending on the success of the project as it develops. Graeme stressed the flexibility of the oxyfuel combustion system, noting that it is especially suited for variable load operation, an important consideration with the move towards more fluctuating capacity from wind and solar.

And so, although All-Energy is never going to be an important meeting for those of us in the coal sector, it does have a role to play in reminding us of the bigger picture. The contrast of information on renewables from the 500+ exhibitors was in stark contrast to the focussed expertise within the CCS session but this served only to emphasise that CCS is vital to the continued role of coal within the future energy mix - the move towards renewables is fast and furious but that does not mean that coal is necessarily being pushed from the picture. Judging by the talks in the CCS session, the experts appreciate that the pressure is on to maximise CCS development and deployment to ensure that the door does not close on the sector.

 
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