To begin with, researchers will work on improving the capture technology which is closest to commercialisation, namely chemical capture of CO2 from the flue gases of fossil fuel-burning power plants. The new test facility is located at Tiller just south of Trondheim. The absorption columns have the same height as they would in a commercial capture plant, but have a much smaller diameter. As a result, much less packing material is needed, and it is easier to study the processes inside the columns. A special propane burner is used, which is designed to generate flue gas with either about 4 % CO2 to simulate a gas-fired power plant, or 12-13 % CO2 to simulate a coal-fired plant.
SINTEF's new research facility for CO2 capture was constructed in connection with the SOLVit project, which is a collaboration between SINTEF, NTNU and Aker Clean Carbon, with Scottish Power, E.ON and Statkraft as industrial partners and with financial support from Gassnova and the Research Council of Norway via the CLIMIT programme. – SINTEF built the lab to test the technology which is most mature and can be applied soonest, says SINTEF's CEO Unni Steinsmo. The new facility, designed by researchers at SINTEF, is based on previous experience with a smaller laboratory and model calculations.
Haakon Magnus, the environmentally-aware Crown Prince of Norway, inaugurated the research facility at Tiller on 29 April 2010.
– Reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases is a tremendous challenge. Carbon Capture and Storage is therefore an important technology for our efforts to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, said Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, who also was introduced to the chemistry and technology of CO2 capture.
– It could be of global importance that Norway contributes to showing how fossil fuels can be sustainably utilised. I hope that the know-how about the products generated in this laboratory will be a vital Norwegian contribution to the global efforts on climate change, said the Crown Prince.
50 percent less energy
With today's technology, one fifth of the fuel in a gas or coal-fired power plant would be needed to generate the power to capture CO2. The researchers in Trondheim aim to cut this figure in half. The challenges are threefold: reducing the energy requirement, cutting the high investment costs and avoiding environmental effects. According to SINTEF, all of these challenges can be solved.
A price tag of NOK 45 million
Gassnova's CEO Bjørn-Erik Haugan is pleased to now have a research laboratory in Trondheim that can complement the European CO2 Technology Centre at Mongstad. – This is a marathon, which does not end with the facilities we have currently established. The authorities must be prepared to use a lot of money on research in the years ahead, says Mr. Haugan. Along the way, however, there will be possibilities to establish a new industry in Norway.
– The new facility at Tiller fills an important gap in the value chain from theory to full-scale CO2 capture, says Jan Roger Bjerkestrand, the CEO of Aker Clean Carbon. – Our ambition is to become one of the world's leading suppliers of carbon capture plants, he says. Aker Clean Carbon has constructed a mobile test unit which is now in use at a coal-fired power plant in Scotland, and we are working on the plant at Mongstad in Norway, scheduled for completion in 2011. The company estimates a future market of 7500 point emission sources worldwide, and has so far already employed 500 people.
The German energy company E.On is one of the partners of the Tiller research facility. The company is committed to CCS, but does not wish to do so alone . – The development of CCS technology is far too costly for any company to do on its own. By cooperating, we share both costs and profits, says Dr. Robin Irons, Head of Technology at E.ON Engineering.
The Tiller area has a proud history as a research arena. The multiphase flow laboratory, which simulates the behaviour of oil, gas and water in long pipelines, has provided valuable knowledge – and thus considerable revenue – to the oil companies. Now, SINTEF and NTNU hope that the new test facilities for carbon capture will play an equally vital role in the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from the combustion of oil and gas.