On November 27, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) hosted Café Climat, dealing this time with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Around 50 people – mostly students – attended the debate, to learn more about this topic, share their thoughts and ask questions to the expert panel, composed of MICHAEL ENGELL-JENSEN (Senior Vice President, Carbon and Climate, Mærsk Olie og Gas A/S), Philippe Renaudat (Country President for ALSTOM Danmark A/S), ERLING H. STENBY (Professor, Director for Center for Phase Equilibria and Separation Processes, DTU Chemical Engineering) and HENRIK KLINGE JACOBSEN (Senior researcher, Policy Instruments, Risø DTU National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy). As usually, after a brief introduction, they tried to answer the questions of the audience and discussed their different views.
The guests first insisted on the necessity of lowering carbon emissions. Indeed, as Erling said, “we have to take it seriously”. He gave examples, such as the power plant in Esbjerg, which emits about 200 T of CO2 per hour, to illustrate the need of doing something to store that carbon. Michael stated everyone is threatened by climate change because it has consequences on everyone and that it is important to realize it, while “the society believes it is not important”. He said there was no doubt that we must enter a CO2 neutral society. Philippe added that lowering emissions of CO2 is “vital”, it is an “urgency”, because CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for warming.
There are according to Michael different solutions to climate change, such as improving energy efficiency, saving more, using more nuclear power or storing carbon. He specified that Maersk is implied in savings and storage. Then, after presenting the Alstom group – a leading provider of equipment, solutions and services in power generation and rail transport, actively involved in the development of clean power and carbon capture technologies –, Philippe also mentioned several options to lower CO2 emissions, such as increasing efficiency or increasing the use of clean energy (nuclear or renewable energy), but finally stated that both are not enough. This is the reason why he thinks we have to use CCS, which is according to him essential to achieve clean energy supply, thus answering an auditor’s question about the necessity of that technology. Philippe briefly explained that CCS implies developing new technologies for capture – adding that Alstom is involved in post-combustion and oxycombustion technologies –, CO2 compressing and transportation, and storage (in oil and gas fields).
Nevertheless, they both agreed that CCS is not the only solution to consider. Philippe stated Alstom never made a choice about just one technology, but also has developed activities in renewable energy, nuclear energy, etc., in order to be diversified. All the technologies are useful and should be taken into account, because there is no “silver bullet”. Michael agreed, claiming energy savings, renewable energy, biomass and a lot of nuclear energy have to be taken into account as well. For example, biomass has to be developed, but the problem is that a big quantity is required to produce energy. That is why we need as much biomass as possible, Michael said. Moreover, Philippe said that many countries are reliant to coal – including Denmark – and they will use it even if there is CCS. Still, CCS remains “something we have to do”.
One of the raised issue about CCS was funding. Because though CCS is one of the future technologies, even “a very good one” according to Henrik stated, it is costly, even “very very costly” as said Michael. Investments in CCS become interesting when carbon prices are seen on the long view, because as Michael stated, CCS can’t compete with other technologies mid-term.
Henrik thinks CCS should be supported by “existing tools” and that the big demonstration projects – the most costly according to Philippe – should be left to the European Union level, and not to Denmark. Michael disagrees with Henrik, because he thinks the society has to support it, paying CO2 taxes. Taxing carbon emissions is according to him the only means of funding CCS. But the problem is that poorer countries then won’t be able to afford that. That’s why he claimed the key was to mobilize all the sector of companies to create a financial mechanism to swap currencies and certificates. He indeed thinks the oil companies are in a key position, but ensured Maersk was not doing it for money. He thinks that if they – big companies like Maersk – don’t support CCS technologies, it won’t happen. Someone in the audience even suggested that the occidental companies used dumping for research and development. However, Michael added that if the government does not do anything, nothing will happen. And finally, he said nothing would happen without popular support and told the audience “you are part of it”. According to Philippe, CCS needs public support, needs the public sector to make a framework and to provide a financial support, notably to demonstration projects – there are currently around 10 or 12 projects in Europe. Indeed, very often, demonstration projects are even more expensive than long term projects. Their prices actually differ from a project to another one, that is why it is useful to test various types of technologies and see which one is the most efficient, with the lowest energy penalty.
To clarify the question of energy penalty, asked by Emmanuel Gentil (former speaker in café climat), Philippe said CCS would be a “module”. It will need energy and electricity to capture CO2. There are for example two different systems used in Alstom : oxycombustion – which uses pure oxygen, to separate, and so needs special types of boiler and process – and post-combustion – which means capturing the smoke and treat it, and so needs power (so more fuel, more coal), capture equipments and transport. Besides, Erling mentioned the importance of a suitable seal, so as captured carbon stays in the storage area. But Philippe stated that 99% of CO2 will stay more than 100 years in the right storage.
Furthermore, Michael thinks that if nothing is done in the developed countries, then nothing will be done in other countries, because we had to keep in mind that our countries are leading. Then, Erling gave the example of China, which he thinks is very aware and very active in high technologies. He added that we should consider the time aspect. Indeed, according to him, when the emerging and developing countries will arrive at our standards of living, they will take their responsibility. Besides, Michael said the US won’t bind by any agreement. However, he thinks they will do a lot, they are ready for it, and he would not be surprised if the US leaded, because there is a very clear shift in the American society to act, notably because of the many hurricanes. Finally, he claimed there might not be an agreement in 2009 in Copenhagen. But still, there will be movement and convergence over the next years.
To end with, the moderator asked the speakers about their hopes and fears about CCS in 5 years. To start with their fears, we should mention Henrik is afraid that there would be lots of coal-fired power plants and that no one worries so much, remaining sure that the CCS program would finally happen and succeed. As for Michael, he fears the demonstration will fail, which would let the US go ahead, followed by China. And Philippe fears they don’t get any financial support for the demonstration, nor any support from the EU in general. Nevertheless, he remains confident and, as Michael, hopes the demonstration program presenting a safe way to store CO2, meant to be ready in 2015, will succeed, which would enable to the next phase, that is to say to start the commercial deployment by 2020 and to reach about 100 CCS plants by 2030. Moreover, Michael said new fields (offshore) would be available for storage in 2015. As for Henrik, he hopes the EU continues to support research and plans. Finally, Erling hopes Denmark won’t ignore the facts, remaining too optimistic, and won’t stay apart from the development of new technologies. Michael agreed, claiming it would be a pity if Denmark does not take part of that big industry and let the other countries deal with it.