DECARBit project to investigate cheaper carbon capture technologies

By Redazione

New EU-funded research on pre-combustion carbon capture technologies for gas- and coal-fired power plants is about to get underway. The four-year DECARBit project, supported by the Seventh
Framework Programme (FP7), will be coordinated by the independent Norwegian research organisation SINTEF and involve 14 partners from eight different countries.

Most technology used today for capturing CO2 relies on chemicals that scrub the flue-gases and separate the CO2 from the other gases in the exhaust stream – so-called post-combustion capture.
The method is considered to be more expensive and more complicated than pre-combustion capture, a technology that attempts to remove carbon in coal and natural gas fuels before they are
actually sent to the power plant.

In order to be decarbonised, the basic fuel – coal, natural gas or biomass – has to be gasified into syngas, which is rich in hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is then converted
into carbon dioxide employing the water gas shift reaction (WGS). The CO2 can be captured and stored, while the hydrogen-rich, decarbonised fuel is sent on to the power plant.

Future DECARBit project coordinator SINTEF forms part of the Norwegian branch of the European Innovation Relay Centre Network, assisting companies and research organisations in areas of
technology transfer, license agreements, intellectual property rights (IPR) and in identifying sources to finance innovation. It is involved in various EU-funded projects, including five in the
area of CO2 handling, but also in other fields of research.

Norway – as a country rich in oil resources – has been a major player in the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies for a long time: In October 1996, the world’s first
offshore CO2 capture plant went on stream in the Sleipner Vest gas field in the North Sea, operated by Norway’s major oil and gas company StatoilHydro.

According to SINTEF, it is thanks to this experience, as well as intense national collaboration between itself, StatoilHydro and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), that
Norway has been highly successful in gaining EU support for research.

‘Participating in these projects is important for the research institutes and for the nation as such, in view of the networks that they give us access to,’ agree Nils A.
Røkke, director of gas technology at SINTEF, and Professor Olav Bolland of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Recently, Norway’s government announced that it will freeze state funding for research in CO2 handling. ‘Our worry regarding the stagnating public-sector funding here at home is that we will be
unable to carry out essential upgrading of our laboratory facilities. This could make us less competitive in Europe in the future,’ comment Mr
Røkke and Professor Bolland.

While the EU, along with some national governments, is investing heavily in the study of CCS technologies, other stakeholders have rushed towards CCS as a means to combat climate change. But
critics warn of the possible risks of carbon storage. The effects of marine sequestration, storage in the open ocean, open acquifiers and lakes or on the sea floor, for instance, are still
widely unknown.

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