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Tomas Norrena

Carbon capture and utilization enable the reduction of air emissions from industry

energy transition CCU Carbon capture

Carbon capture and utilization creates new business opportunities for companies and support the achievement of carbon neutrality targets.

Carbon capture and utilization or storage (CCU/S) has emerged in several climate debates as a concrete solution for reducing air emissions both in Finland and globally. Carbon capture has also been mentioned as one of the key climate actions in the Finland’s latest Government Programme, which is reflected in the national investment aid decisions.

Sweco’s experts have been carrying out assignments related to carbon dioxide CCU/S technologies on a long-term basis for several years, and currently there are several active projects in the different sectors.

Carbon capture is already technically feasible

Several proven technologies for capturing CO2 from point sources are already in place, and they are also commercially widely available. One of the commercial solutions for carbon capture is amine scrubbing. The method is based on a chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and amine, which allows carbon dioxide to be separated from other gases, such as flue gases. The market potential can also be seen promising for the HPC solution, i.e. the potassium carbonate process.

For instance, the energy production plants or pulp and paper mills are potential sites for post-combustion carbon capture. However, there are several factors to consider when evaluating the feasibility of post-combustion capture sites. In addition to actual flue gas composition, the accessibility of the plant as well as the existing infrastructure and availability of process utilities are worth considering. Depending on the technology solutions, also possibilities for industrial synergies such as heat integration needs to be noted.

Potential uses of carbon dioxide

Several uses have been recognized for the captured carbon dioxide. The utilization of carbon dioxide in the production of synthetic e-fuels while using green hydrogen is currently a highly active topic in the Nordics. It is also possible to utilize the carbon dioxide directly, for instance in the food industry or greenhouses.

When e-fuels such as green methane are produced for road and maritime transport, the carbon dioxide cycle is relatively short, as the CO₂ is released into the atmosphere when the fuels are used. However, the utilization of synthetic methane cuts the GHG emissions by reducing the use of natural gas with fossil origin.

Carbon dioxide can also be bound for a longer period when it is utilized in the manufacturing of solid materials such as different types of plastics or construction products but in this post, we are mainly focusing on the e-fuels option.

We study the suitability of different carbon dioxide utilization routes for our industrial clients on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to the production of e-fuels, some of the key factors are:

  • consumption of the fuel at the target area and the demand forecast
  • existing infrastructure for distribution and storage of the fuel
  • client’s current product portfolio and business strategy
  • suitable investment subsidies

Business development related expertise in our projects is strengthened by Sweco’s subsidiary Experts at Gaia Consulting.

CCS requires cost-effective logistics

It is predicted that also the capture and storage of CO2 will increase in the coming years. Carbon dioxide emissions caused by W-to-E plants might be treated partly fossil in the near future, and this possible change can also enhance it. In this case, the aim is to store fossil-based carbon dioxide for longer period of time by injecting the CO2 e.g. into geological formations such as depleted oil reservoirs.

When storing the carbon dioxide, one of the challenges is that the suitable sites for CO2 storage are usually far off from the actual emitting sources. The possible liquefaction and cost-effective transfer of captured carbon dioxide to the CO2 transfer hubs or directly to the port is crucial when the feasibility of these projects is concerned. In addition to shipping-related costs, Sweco’s experts evaluate constantly the technical solutions for transporting carbon dioxide by truck, pipeline or rail.

State of the market and future outlook

In the Nordic market there is already a growing demand for the biogenic carbon dioxide. The capture and utilization of CO2 from bioenergy production sites (BECCS) will also become more popular, and various companies are actively mapping the most suitable sites for their projects. In the future, the availability of bio-based carbon dioxide might also partly limit the production of green methane and other synthetic fuels.

The development of carbon capture solutions is also slowed down by the energy intensity of the actual process. Such solutions include, for example, the Direct Air Capture (DAC) applications. However, DAC technologies will also be needed in the future as carbon capture is scaled up extensively. One of the interesting research routes is to identify the possible synergies between DAC and SMR plants, i.e. small-scale nuclear power.

There are also profitability challenges linked to the CCU/S projects, which is one of the reasons why the national and EU level subsidies still have an important role in the market. It is essential that the EU provides sufficient subsidies for the industrial actors, so that the European companies remain competitive in the green transition. The on-going development of regulation will also have its own impact on how the market will be oriented.

Tomas Norrena, Head of development, Circular Economy, tomas.norrena@sweco.fi

Picture: Reijo Koirikivi / Studio P.S.V

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