Japanese carbon capture plant claims higher efficiency and lower cost

Image credit: reuters

A new carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in Japan is proving to be cheaper and more efficient to run than others using the technology according to its developers.

The site, located near Tomakomai port on Japan’s north island, is reportedly cutting energy costs by as much as two-thirds compared with other projects according to Reuters.

These claims have yet to be commercially verified but if true could reignite interest in CCS that has waned in recent years due to the high cost of the technology.

The UK government was accused of wasting approximately £168m of taxpayer money last year after two initial attempts to develop CCS technology ultimately resulted in funding being pulled and the projects never got off the ground. 

The government didn’t want to spend the billions that it would have taken to maintain the projects.

While the $300m (£211bn) site at Tomakomai port represents just a small portion of the $20bn invested in CCS, it has potential for easing CO2 emissions from industries such as gas processing and cement and chemical production.

Pipe for tranporting CO2 pictured at CCS test site in Tomakomai

Most investments into CCS have focused on capturing carbon from power plants fired by coal and other fossil fuels - the largest source of CO2 emissions - but there have been big setbacks and some projects cancelled.

“Tomakomai is an exciting development. Progress on CCS has been far too slow and projects like that are very encouraging,” said Graham Winkelman, climate change lead at BHP.

Industrial applications such as that being tested at the Tomakomai site are where the focus now is on CCS, he said.

BHP is the world’s largest exporter of coal for steel-making, a fuel and industry often marked as big sources of climate-warming emissions.

A history of failed projects has plagued the development of CCS. British utility Drax won a €300m (£260m) EU grant to develop the technology in 2014.

But just a year later the government’s withdrawal of CCS funding support, reversing pledges made promised in the Conservative party’s 2015 election manifesto, resulted in the closure of the facility.

Southern Co’s Kemper power station in the United States was to use CCS in an attempt to get clean power from coal, but was abandoned after billions of dollars of investment.

Chevron Corp also delayed the world’s largest CO2 injection operation in Australia, after spending A$2.5bn (£1.4bn) on the project at its Gorgon liquefied natural gas plant, itself beset by many problems.

CCS involves separating CO2 from other materials and gases and injecting it underground to prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere or using it to create pressure to push oil to the surface as wells deplete.

At Tomakomai, by-product gas is piped from a nearby Idemitsu Kosan refinery and CO2 pulled out as it passes through an amine solution. By using the remaining gases to generate power and recycling heat, energy costs are cut to between half and a third of a typical extraction plant, the company said.

In February a report claimed that CCS would only have “limited realistic potential” to stymie climate change and that deep and rapid cuts to the amount of greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere would need to be made to stick to pledges in the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

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