Spotlight on carbon capture
Smith Brothers Ltd recently announced it would be providing Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services to a new net-zero, flexible power generation scheme at Rhodesia in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Smith Brothers is proud to be playing its part in creating a net-zero solution, as projects like this Involving Carbon Capture, Usage, and Storage (CCUS) are vital for the UK, moving forward.
What is CCUS?
CCUS involves the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes, such as steel and cement production, or from the burning of fossil fuels in power generation. This carbon is then transported from where it was produced, via ship or in a pipeline, and stored deep underground in geological formations, or as in the Rhodesia project, cleaned and re-used.
A key part of the strategy
The United Kingdom considers CCUS a key part of the strategy to achieve net-zero emissions. The UK’s long-term strategy hopes to capture 47 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2050. To achieve this goal, the government will invest in research and development, CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. Along with this investment, it will also provide incentive payments to project developers. Additionally, several institutions have been established which bring together government, industry, and academia to help advance the sector.
Although CCUS is a relatively new concept in the UK, the country is hoping to deploy enough of the technology at power and industrial plants to capture 20-30 million tons of CO2 per year by 2030. The government is seeking to develop ‘clusters’ of CCUS in energy intensive areas across the country.
The UK is ideally positioned to lead the global development and deployment of CCUS, with the world class industrial experience and world-leading capital investment landscape to enable innovation, development, and growth. It has one of the largest potential CO₂ storage capacities in Europe (an estimated 78Gt of CO₂ storage capacity in the UK Continental Shelf), making it one of the most attractive business environments for CCUS technology.
CCUS is now seen as a critical part of the world’s future low-carbon energy portfolio. Leading energy and climate change institutions agree on the crucial role for CCUS in cost effectively realising global emissions reduction targets. International evidence shows CCUS contributing 17% of the necessary global emissions reductions in 2050 (from coal, gas, and heavy industry users), and delivering 14% of the cumulative emissions reductions needed between 2015 and 2050.
Job creation and economic benefits
There is a large amount of data and case studies available on potential job creation from CCUS in the power sector. Taken together, these paint an impressive picture with a range of 1000-2,500 jobs created during plant construction (typically four to six years) per power plant CCUS installation (it should be noted that these figures relate to new-build CCUS power plant only, not retrofit CCUS power plant).
Once construction is complete, job generation tends to decline, with typical plant estimates of 200–300 jobs in operation and maintenance and the associated supply chain, of which 40–100 jobs are at the plant itself. These estimates are given credence from the first actual power plant CCUS installation at Boundary Dam in Canada, which employed more than 1,500 people during construction, and maintains 41 operational employees at the plant, with more employed in the supply chain.
The UK could become a leading global player in the CCUS sector. The UK has abundant offshore CO2 storage capacity in depleted oil and gas fields, CO2 storage in combination with Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and storage in deep saline rock formations beneath the North Sea and East Irish Sea give us significant access to the natural resources needed to develop and support this important industry.
Another advantage is the fact that many of the UK’s largest carbon emitters (power and industrial facilities) are already clustered together around major estuaries such as the Humber, Teesside, and Merseyside, close to offshore storage capacity in the North and East Irish Seas.
The UK also benefits from existing oil and gas pipelines and offshore platforms that have the potential to be re-commissioned for CCUS, thereby prolonging the economic life and value of important offshore assets and deferring their considerable decommissioning costs. The engineering skills required for CCUS are in abundance in the UK, primarily resulting from long-standing experience in the oil and gas, energy supply and process industries. These include power plant and process engineering; the design, build, commissioning of major infrastructure projects; the construction and operation of pipelines; sub-surface analysis; and CO2 storage, including reservoir operations and field services.
‘Softer’ skills related to CCUS can also be found in the UK, including planning, undertaking environmental impact assessments, managing public perceptions, verification, financing, insurance, and legal services.
It’s clear that the UK is well established in CCUS research and development, with leading research centres in both the public and the private sectors.