Combat climate change through technology

Alstom continues to advance CCS technologies

Together with partners in Norway and Switzerland Alstom Norway is developing technology that drastically reduces energy requirements compared with traditional CO2 capture technology. Meanwhile, the company continues to develop the technology that has been tested at Mongstad

Claude R. Olsen

Alstom's activities in carbon capture became well known in Norway when the company built a test facility for CO2 capture at Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM). In the test facility, CO2 was captured from flue gas using chilled ammonia (chilled ammonia process). The tests at TCM which are now completed, confirmed that the technology is ready for commercialisation, but also that there is room for improvement.

The CHIPPER Phase 1 project, supported by the CLIMIT program, processes Alstom data from the tests together with SINTEF and TCM. The project is designed to improve factors such as energy efficiency, cost, equipment for measurement of process parameters and reliability. The project includes tests at SINTEF CO2 laboratory at Tiller in Trondheim. When the project results become available in early 2016, Alstom will consider whether to move forward with modifications of the chilled ammonia plant at Mongstad and new tests in 2017.

- The reason that Alstom began with technology for carbon capture in earnest in 2006 was that we supply coal, oil and gas fired power plants and that we wanted to offer our customers such power plants with low CO2 emissions. We have progressed several technologies into commercial status: amine, chilled ammonia and oxy-combustion, says Arne Ellestad, director of CCS in Alstom Norway.

So far the power plants have not asked for CCS technology. Alstom therefore also look infor solutions for combined plants for carbon capture and utilization of CO2, either for industrial production (urea, methanol etc.) or enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

The Norwegian government's plan for full-scale by 2020

Like other suppliers of this kind of technology for CO2 capture, Alstom is impatient to get started.

- There are not many opportunities today. We hope for a Norwegian project based on the government's target of a full-scale plant in 2020. And then there are opportunities in the UK and North America (EOR), said Ellestad.

- Is there anything the government can do to speed up the market?

- What is required is that someone invests in building a plant. It must be triggered by government requirements to reduce emissions. Without that, it will not happen, says Ellestad.

Now Alstom is looking into the White Rose project in the UK which is an oxyfuel plant with coal and possibly biomass as fuel. An investment decision could come at the earliest in about a year.

Reduces energy consumption by up to 90 percent

Meanwhile Alstom works with new technologies that could be ready for a market after 2020. The company is looking into several so-called second-generation technologies. One of the most intriguing is a carbonate cycle that does not require supply of external energy. The project is called Fully Integrated Regenerative Carbonate Cycle (FIRCC).

Regenerative Carbonate Cycle (RCC) is a promising cost-effective CO2 capture technology. The technology is based on the ability of calcium oxide to bind to CO2 in the fluegas in an exothermic reaction.

Calcium carbonate is formed, which can subsequently be regenerated to calcium oxide. These reactions occur in separate reactors and the solid sorbent is transported between them in a continual process. Energy required comes from fossil fuel combustion in a pure oxygen atmosphere. In this way CO2 can be relatively easily removed from the flue gas with pure CO2.

- Our goal for FIRCC is that the CO2 capture facility reduces energy efficiency of a power plant by only one percentage point, says Arne Ellestad.
To obtain the energy to release the CO2, the standard concept of this technology is to burn fossil fuels in pure oxygen. It requires a lot of energy to produce oxygen from air. Alstom and its partners (Tel-Tek, Telemark University College, IFE and ETH / Zurich) will cut this part of the process entirely by instead calcining with indirect heat transfer from the flue gas and additionally utilize high-energy liberated by approximately 600 degrees C in the first reactor when the CO2 binds to calcium oxide.

If they succeed, the energy loss can be drastically reduced - up to 90 percent. The big reward comes since the operator does not need to produce oxygen for the calcining and also due to recycling of released energy at high temperature.

- Our goal for FIRCC is that the CO2 capture facility reduces the energy efficiency of a power plant with only one percentage point. Today CO2 capture facility involves reduction of about eight percentage points, from a typical power efficiency of 45% in a modern coal-fired power plants, says Ellestad.

Pilot plant in 2017?

The FIRCC project intends to develop the next generation of RCC which will eliminate the need for energy from fossil fuel combustion in an oxygen rich atmosphere. During the pre-study phase a technical and economic assessment for the pilot for next generation RCC technology will be made. Various sorbents will also be assessed for use in the pilot phase. When the project is complete by August 2016, Alstom will have completed a design for a pilot plant. The market outlook at the end of 2016 will be decisive for how quickly a pilot plant will be built.

Ellestad emphasizes that although the results so far are promising, many years remains before they have a commercial solution.

Acquired by GE

Alstom Group is working on CO2 capture also in Vaxjo in Sweden, Wiesbaden in Germany, and in Knoxville and Windsor in the United States. General Electric (GE) has made a bid to purchase the "power part" of Alstom. The acquisition is now being reviewed by the competition authorities in several countries. It is expected that this will be clarified by the end of August.

- Until then, it is "business as usual". How GE will look at CO2 capture is too early for us to say something about, he said.

Good examples

- Alstom's two projects are good examples of development that is based in Norway, but with a strong international cooperation. For CLIMIT it exciting with a major industry player that is both thinking of the market in the short term with mature technology in CHIPPER, with testing on TCM, while also at the long term with second-generation technology in FIRCC, says senior adviser Svein Pelvic Gassnova and CLIMIT.



Chilled ammonia Process Performance optimization Phase 1 (CHIPPER P1)

Partners: SINTEF Energy Research, SINTEF Materials and Chemistry, Alstom Carbon Capture GmbH and Alstom Norway AS
Period: 2014-2016
Budget: 11.7 million
CLIMIT share: 65 percent

Fully Integrated Regenerative Carbonate Cycle (FIRCC) - Pre study

Partners: Institute for Energy Technology, Tel-Tek, Telemark University, ETH Zurich, Alstom Carbon Capture GmbH and Alstom Norway AS
 Period: 2013-2016
 Budget 24,6 million
 CLIMIT share: 65 percent

Publisert 6/29/2015

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