Carbon Capture and Sequestration

– Just Another Panic-led “Solution” to Another Energy Crisis?

By Dr F.Starr – FIMMM, C.Eng : Claverton: October 2008. This presentation was given at the Claverton October 2008 Conference and was intended to provoke discussion about one of the main downsides to the concepts of carbon capture. The issue in question is that carbon capture will increase coal demand by at least 20%, over what  non-capture plant will require. This is particularly important for the UK since, despite what is commonly thought, the UK coal output has been declining since 1913 and continues to decline. At present UK coal only supplies about 10% of our electricity. There is no prospect of a significant increase.

The rest of Europe is in a similar position. Coal and lignite output is declining here, too, but because of the construction of natural gas powered CCGTs, and deindustrialisation, the use of coal has fallen. Even so Europe, as a whole is not self sufficient at the present time. After 2015, Europe, including the UK will need to begin importing more coal.

This is a critical issue for the UK. By 2020 we will be importing 90% of our gas, and even more coal than we do at the moment. The UK has been running a huge balance of payments deficiency. Do we want to add to out burden by adding 20% to our coal import bill?My belief is that, as I highlighted in the Claverton Press Release for April 2008, the UK Government’s approach to energy matters has been a series of short term panic-led solutions to energy matters. I think that for the UK to embark upon the immediate construction of power plants of the carbon capture type would be premature. I advocate holding back until 2020, when it will become clearer what Europe, as a whole will have decided to do in terms of carbon capture plants.

It is possible that by that time the large scale introduction of renewable energy will have obviated the need to build “clean coal power generation plants”  and construction of such units will have been seen another expensive mistake.

An honest debate is called for, instead of brushing aside this issue. Please read the presentation and think.

This is based on one of Karl Marx’s quotations about history repeating itself, first as a farce and then as a tragedy. The UK energy policy has been of this type and has been repeatedly derailed during the past 70 years, through such things as miner’s strikes, blackouts due shortage of power plant, and bad weather and real environmental matters, like wide dread smogs. The biggest one in the UK was that in the early fifties which lead to the “Smoke Control Acts.”

However in coming decades, the big issues are going to be the cost of fuel imports, a shortage of coal as the UK and the rest of Europe run down their mining activities. In addition, because almost every European country will be desperate to import coal from the rest of the world, there will threats to our own imports.

The UK suffered its first energy real crisis during the Second World War, when our only source of energy was coal.  In another presentation I have made the point that we are no longer an island of coal, we have used up almost all of our oil and gas, and we no loner have any fish either!

This slide speaks for itself, but the almost linear decline in UK coal output began in 1913, when we were exporting 100 million tonnes of coal. Basically we used to be a coal based economy which needed about 200-250 million to sustain itself.

If we had go back to coal completely, that is no oil or gas, we would need to mine about 350-400 million tonnes a year. Present UK reserves, including open cast are less than 1000 million tonnes, not the hundreds of years commonly supposed.

There are also reasons to think that world wide coal reserves are not brilliant, but this issue is even more contentious than the question as to whether an “oil peak” is imminent.

The slide summarises the situation whereby although the UK may be okay for a long period using oil for transport, especially if there is some restriction on it use, we are in serious difficulties with gas and coal. We have a severe balance of payments problem and this is likely to get worse as the value of the pound declines.

My concern about carbon capture generating plants, or using coal for production of gas or for space heating, is that it perpetuates or reliance on coal.

Important questions for those who see carbon capture as a solution, is when do they see the UK getting rid of it last carbon capture fossil fuel plant, and what level of coal use do they see in the decades between now and 2070?

New coal plants will be needed in the UK, and are essential if we go for either renewables or nuclear. But they have to be more efficient than present units.

But such plants will need to have the flexibility whereby they can run at low outputs efficiently, and perhaps, be able to started up from cold quickly when wind power fails and there is no sun….as in December 2006. Since future coal based plants will not be running base load this demands a sensible balance between capital cost and plant efficiency.

The difference in generating plant efficiencies from plants which do not capture carbon, like the ones that we would build now, and plants that capture carbon is about 8%. That is 43 minus 35%.

However the amount of coal needed for a carbon capture plant is in the ratio of 43/35, that is 1.23. Hence a carbon capture plant will require more than 20% more coal to produce the same amount of electricity. Not 8%!

Questions also need to be asked about the coal demand during part load operation of carbon capture plants. Will this be worse than when running a conventional plant at part load?  Furthermore, some gasifier based carbon capture plants will suffer very badly when running at part load, and may take longer to start up from cold.

More advanced coal plants will be lucky to hit 50% efficiency. They will not be available until after 2020, if they prove to be practical. The 43% is a reasonable estimate for plants that will be built in the UK in the nest ten years.

This information is slightly out of date, being taken from a European Commission sponsored report of 2003. Work is under way to update it, but there is, I believe, no serious disputing of the trend. Both coal and lignite have been in decline for some years, with the shut down of mines in The UK and Germany being responsible for much of the decline. The prospects for resurrection of coal mining in these countries are bleak.

In the longer term, Polish coal output will also go down. This is quite important for the UK since we had have begun to import coal from this country. The EU is now importing a lot from Australia, South Africa and Indonesia.

The surprising thing is the decline of lignite as well. Major sources in Europe are Germany and Greece. Because of it low calorific value, and high trapped water content there is no international trade in lignite.

Very roughly, the EU is now producing about as much coal as the UK itself did back in the immediate post war period.

Here again the information may be a bit out of date, but it does show that the EU has turned away from coal, with many countries using natural gas for electricity generation and as well as for space heating. We areat a happy time when in general the demand that Europe makes on other parts of the world is quite low.

The recent rise in gas prices is pushing power generation back to coal. In the UK, if we replaced all of gas with coal this would double coal demand to something in the region of 70-80 million tonnes.

But notice that for the EU as a whole coal demand also doubles. Part of the reason for this is the continuing decline in lignite production.

The projection shows what is likely to happen in Europe if after 2015, as the proposed regulations require generating plants are fitted with carbon capture systems.

The dotted red line shows the effect of an increase in coal demand because of carbon capture.

Note that because lignite plants will also have their output reduced, it will be necessary to build extra generating plant capacity and import more coal as a result.

What does this mean for the UK, if it begins to build carbon capture generating plant?

Very roughly, by2020 on present trends, that is, no carbon capture we will be importing 50 million tonnes of coal. UK production will have probably fallen from its present level of about 18 million to less than ten million tonnes.

If we build carbon capture type plants, these will be the mainstay of generating industry for many years. However their operation will require the import of an extra ten million tonnes. So the UK will be paying out half a billion to reduce CO2 emissions by 1%.

I am sure there more productive and cost effective ways of spending money. In addition the money is not fed back into the UK economy.

But let us suppose that the world as a whole switches over to carbon capture. If this were to happen world coal output would need to increase by 1000 million tonnes.

Is this practical?

I believe that a few people in the UK Government are dimly aware of the impact that carbon capture will have on the countries finances. They really do not know what to do.

I am not sure myself, but if I was in their position I would not be wanting to be the first European Country to build a clean coal, low CO2 emission plant. Instead I would keep my options open and only begin its introduction when others in Europe had begun to do so. At least then we would all be in the same economic situation.

I discount the construction of coal based plants in the USA , China, India, Australia or in other countries which have got a large coal mining industry, and either are exporting coal or do not require it to be imported.

One comment on “Carbon Capture and Sequestration

  1. Euan Mearns, an editor at the Oildrum, is about to deliver a paper on CCS. He is careful to distinguish between the CCS that is economically and energy wasteful (just sequestering the CO2) and the use of CO2 for enhanced oil and gas recovery which is economically attractive while safely sequestering CO2 in geological structures that have proven their gas tightness for many millions of years.

    The following correspondence has been generated over this:

    From: “Mike Austell”
    To: “‘Hugh Sharman'” ,

    Subject: RE: CCS and CO2/EOR
    Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2008 23:29:02 -0000


    I agree with Hugh, CCS for EOR has the potential to help produce many billions of barrels of oil worldwide. But other than the small quantity of CO2 in gas fields or natural domes like those in Colorado, New Mexico and Mississippi, the source for most CO2 for EOR will come from anthropogenic sources like the 800 MW coal and pet coke fired IGCC being developed by Progressive Energy at Teesside. The project is capable of supplying 5 million tpy of CO2 for EOR for the North Sea. Studies have shown that there are nearly 5 billion barrels capable of being produced in the North Sea from EOR requiring approximately 1 tonne of externally sourced (plus all recirculated) CO2 for 3 barrels of oil. This would require in excess of 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2. That would require 10 Teesside projects for 30 years to get that much CO2.

    As Hugh also says, we would learn a great deal from “doing” with respect to efficiency of the process as well as building out the transportation infrastructure while we also learn more about the relationship of anthropogenic CO2 to Climate Change. For eight years Hugh and I and others have tried to bring CO2 to the North Sea for EOR only to be asked by the oil companies how much would we pay them to take our produced CO2 or hear, “we will take all you can produce for free” when they know it is a great working fluid worth paying for. It is commercially difficult to develop a power plant for CCS when the power producer sees it as taking on a great deal of first of a kind risk while not receiving sufficient commercial benefit as the EU ETS price stays in the €16 per tonne level. It is also commercially difficult to orchestrate a generation consortium, a pipeline consortium and multiple oil field operator consortiums to work together. However the prize is big and paid for CO2 by the oil companies could change the commercial equation and kick start a CCS industry better matching a CO2 supply to what could then become an increasing demand.

    The efficiency of the proposed CCS Teesside project is only slightly less than the remaining UK Coal fleet and more efficient than many of the old coal plants worldwide. I agree with you that we should not be proposing to capture CO2 from gas fired facilities because the efficiency hit is too great for such an expensive fuel and a fuel with a lower CO2 impact already. But pet coke needs a clean method for combustion and IGCC provides such a clean method for coal and pet coke.

    Finally, the EU is looking at supporting (undefined) up to 12 projects of half the size of the proposed Teesside project so if these went ahead, they still would not supply sufficient CO2 to supply the North Sea EOR demand. But if they went ahead, we would significantly advance the technologies and the infrastructure build out.

    I hope this has helped you understand our motivation for developing CCS and specifically CCS for EOR. If you wish to discuss further, I can be reached at the below numbers.


    Mike Austell

    J. Michael Austell

    9 Llanvair Close

    Ascot, UK SL5 9HX

    Tel:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â +44 1344 872435

    Mob:Â Â Â +44 778 974 0025

    email:Â Â or

    From: Hugh Sharman []
    Sent: 27 November 2008 17:12
    To: euan mearns
    Subject: Re: CCS and CO2/EOR


    Thanks and sorry!

    No I was not being satirical. Many “greenies” attack CO2/EOR because they actually believe that the sequestered CO2 will leak back to the atmosphere! They really do! So your remarks ….

    …dreadful for the environment though – all that excess CO2 that gets produced – its sends shivers down my spine.

    …was ironic? I am not sure that many Clavertons would see the obvious humour!!

    Of course, the incremental oil and associated gas will produce about as much or more CO2 as the amount sequestered, so the method is near “neutral” from a CO2 viewpoint, another reason for the greenies to moan. But overall the process produces much less CO2 per barrel than drilling and producing oil conventionally, especially if the associated gas contains a high fraction of CO2 that invariably gets vented. And much less CO2 than other tertiary oil production methods. It is much less CO2-intensive than LNG whose overall CO2 profile is about the same as coal. Few people know that North Field gas in Qatar is 8% CO2 by weight. All that is vented before the gas is liquefied.

    CO2/EOR will not save the World but it will profitably produce many billions of barrels that will otherwise stay under ground and sequester many millions of CO2. If we find that CO2 is really causing “dangerous climate change” the then fully paid for CO2 capture plant and transport infrastructure can be used for the less profitable but by then much cheaper carbon capture.

    I fully agree with Adnan (thanks for your kind reply, Adnan) who was OPEC’s Secretary General until 2006), that the IOCs and NOCs should collaborate on this venture because that’s where the oil is. But for that to happen, the IOCs must learn that the “good old days” are gone for ever and that their real future is probably as super-oilfield service companies! I don’t expect this to happen any time soon!!

    I look forward to reading your paper on

    regards, Hugh

    At 12:26 PM 11/27/2008 +0000, euan mearns wrote:


    I’m not sure whether you are being satirical here or have misunderstood my point where I said:

    PS – I’m not talking about miscible gas flooding of oil fields which
    is very sensible indeed – dreadful for the environment though – all
    that excess CO2 that gets produced – its sends shivers down my spine.

    With one bbl weighing in at 0.1364 tonnes (BP) and assuming CH2 as general formula for crude we get 12/14*0.1364 tonnes = 0.1169 tonnes of C in a barrel that when combusted will produce 44/12*0.1169 = 0.43 tonnes of CO2. To this needs to be added all the energy involved and CO2 produced in the process.

    So I’m not sure if you are talking tons or tonnes but my main point is that the primary objective of CO2 / EOR floods should be to produce lots and lots of economic oil – which is not exactly on the Green / environmentalist agenda. If some / about equal amounts of CO2 get sequestered at the same time then maybe fair enough – but the more I look into AGW the less convinced I become that atmospheric CO2 is a problem at all.

    I think the point you make about companies conflating useless CCS with essential CO2 / EOR is a good one. IMO those promoting the latter should consider dropping Green arguments and focus on the economics of energy decline, EU energy security and trade balances.

    The issue is further confused by Statoil sequestering co-produced CO2 – which if they had any sense should be used in EOR. But politicians and business leaders seem quite happy to confuse all these issues (including Millar – Bodham) and the end result is nothing happens.

    All the best,


    On 27 Nov 2008, at 06:52, Hugh Sharman wrote:


    I am genuinely bewildered about what you have against miscible CO2/EOR floods. Please be sure that all the CO2 recirculating eventually ends up safely underground. The CO2 is far too expensive to vent.

    The incremental oil and gas produced is needed, significant and more than pays for the whole exercise, even in the North Sea.

    On a global scale, particularly in the Middle East, we are talking about staggering amounts of incremental oil (may be > 15% of all “light oil” OOIP) and similarly large quantities of associated gas. Enormous amounts of CO2 are safely sequestered (not less than 0.3 tons per incremental barrel).

    Dave, I do not much go for “conspiracy” theories but it seems to me that the oil companies, particularly in Europe, have their hands out for subsidies for CCS by conflating useless CCS with essential CO2/EOR. They surely know that until anthropogenic global warming is thoroughly proven – and the global climate is currently cooling not warming – that CCS without EOR is simply a dreadful waste of scarce and expensive energy. They should be advising Governments about the difference – which they are not.

    They appear to be terrified not to be politically fashionable.

    regards, Hugh

    Hugh Sharman
    Box 39, Toldbodvej 12,
    DK-9370 Hals, Denmark,
    tel +45.9825.1760 fax +45.9825.2555
    cell +45.4055.1760

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