Shell is working with partners to modularize and standardize the integration of carbon capture into industrial facilities
Momentum for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is building. Emitters from different sectors such as waste-to-energy, cement and steel are getting involved and last year, according to the IEA, more than 100 new CCUS facilities were announced. Meanwhile, the size of the projects is changing: in the past, most projects were large and standalone, but now the majority are smaller scale and part of a cluster, or hub.
This is a significant development. In the past, plants needed to be at a minimum scale of about 1 megatonne per annum (Mtpa) to justify the cost of the carbon dioxide (CO2) transport and storage infrastructure. Now, though, it is possible for a plant with emissions as low as 10 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa) to develop a small-scale CO2 capture project, as it can benefit from a hub that provides a centralized pipeline and sequestration infrastructure to multiple assets.
Besides transport and storage, however, there is another significant cost component: the cost of capturing the CO2. The industry urgently requires solutions that will drive this down.
To respond to these changing market dynamics and lower the cost of CO2 capture, Shell Catalysts & Technologies, together with its alliance partner, engineering company Technip Energies, adapted its technology development programmes according to four themes.
The first centres around Shell Catalysts & Technologies’ core CO2-capture technology, the CANSOLV* CO2 Capture System. The team looked for ways to improve the solvent that is the basis of the technology and sharpened their design rules. This led to the creation of new solvents and solvent blends that have helped to lower capital (capex) and operating expenditure (opex), and reduced the size and cost of major equipment, including the regenerator and absorber.
The second theme, integration optimization, involves improving overall project value through intelligent integration of the technology into the plant. For example, the use of high-pressure regeneration has reduced energy consumption in the capture unit and the power required for compression and cut capex by eliminating the first stage.
The third theme, licence to operate, is about ensuring that the CO2 capture plant is safe and reliable, and that it meets the appropriate emissions limits. Through in-house research and collaborations with academic institutions, the team has developed analytical methods to measure emissions and demonstrate compliance with current and future stringent standards.
Finally, Shell Catalysts & Technologies and Technip Energies unlocked improvements in the units’ engineering and construction. For example, by applying cheaper construction materials and advanced, commercially available contacting internals in the absorber, they reduced the footprint and cut capex.
Furthermore, Technip Energies now offers modularized and standardized solutions that enable customers to save schedule and cost. These range from 1.5 ktpa pilot units, to 10–150 ktpa containerized units that are versatile, redeployable and easily transportable, to 2 Mtpa units for large-scale emitters. One example is the partially modularised 400 ktpa unit that Technip Energies and Shell Catalysts & Technologies designed for Hafslund Oslo Celsio’s waste-to-energy plant in Oslo, Norway, which will deliver liquid CO2 to the Northern Lights CCS project, a joint venture of Equinor, Shell and TotalEnergies.
The cumulative effect of cheaper construction materials, lower energy use, smaller equipment sizes and enhanced reliability is substantial. The organisations estimate that they can now provide designs that will have up to 20% lower capex and 30% lower opex than those they created 12 to 24 months ago.
Growth in clusters, which enable the sharing of transportation and sequestration infrastructure, has made small-scale projects more viable. Emitters from different sectors, such as waste-to-energy, cement and steel, have been getting involved.
However, these changing dynamics have brought into sharp focus the need for smaller-scale carbon capture solutions. Shell Catalysts & Technologies and Technip Energies responded by unlocking step-change capex and opex improvements, including modularised and standardised solutions that enable schedule and cost savings.
These improvements are one example of how Shell provides end-to-end carbon capture, transport and storage services to its customers. Collectively, these help to meet the growing demand for CCS across industries and geographies, and could therefore make a significant contribution to reaching net-zero goals.
*CANSOLV is a Shell trademark.
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