IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme


Technology innovation that can enhance the monitoring of CO2 in the subsurface explained at the US DOE Carbon Storage Meeting

James-Craig cropThe US DOE annual Carbon Storage Review meeting, held in Pittsburgh 1-3 August, included presentations on the latest technology innovations currently under development in the country. One of the challenges of secure subsurface storage is the ability to track CO2 in deep reservoirs. Fibre-optic distributed acoustic sensors (DAS) are attracting increasing interest as a reliable medium for detecting subtle changes in reservoirs. The technology has been deployed and tested at CO2 storage sites and there is evidence that it could become a promising means of monitoring.

DAS works by responding to external pressure from a seismic source acting on the fibre that then induces a back-scattering effect. This response can be translated into a strain measurement that can be correlated with wave forms detected by conventional geophones. DAS generated signals have now been successfully correlated with vertical seismic profiles (VSPs) using arrays of geophones suspended in a wellbore. One key advantage of fibre optic systems that has become evident from field deployment is their durability. These systems are robust and have remained intact even after 5 years in the ground. The technology has now reached a stage where it is being commercialised. Helical configurations of fibres will improve the sensitivity of system and therefore signal quality and seismic images.

DAS, and other monitoring techniques, are run prior to CO2 injection into reservoirs to generate a base-line image. CO2 is then injected into the subsurface and tracked by running repeat surveys. Time-lapse and cross-well comparisons between base-line conditions and later surveys can provide evidence of CO2 distribution within reservoirs. Future research is planned to analyse different forms of shear-wave and heat pulse monitoring. These advances should lead to enhanced seismic images especially in deep reservoirs where conventional seismic techniques can be less effective.


CO2 Storage and Geothermal Energy benefit from mutual technology applications

James-Craig cropOne of the highlights from the US DOE Carbon Storage and oil and natural gas Technologies Review Meeting between 1st and 3rd August 2017, was a summary from, Robert Vagnetti of NETL on the current US geothermal FORGE programme (Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy). This energy source is not only relatively abundant in the US it also benefits from mutual technological innovations relevant to CO2 storage. Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) have been under development in many countries including the US where there are heat anomalies in crystalline rock formations such as granite. EGS relies on drilling into rock which is then hydraulically fractured. Additional production wells are then drilled and water is circulated between the injector and production wells to extract heat. Microseismicity is generated during the creation of the fracture network and the ability to detect the sites of the seismicity allows geologists to delineate the optimum sites for production wells. Pressurisation caused by CO2 injection can induce microseismicity so the ability to detect where it is occurring, and any risks associated with the phenomenon, are an important part of site characterisation.

Under the FORGE programme the potential for EGS will be evaluated at the Navy Air Station test site in Fallon, Nevada. Geological analysis at this site indicates temperatures greater 175°C at depths of 1.5 to 2 km. The complexity of EGS and geothermal reservoirs creates a demand for data analysis to create clear images of heat-exchange reservoirs. Consequently the development of a robust monitoring system is required to investigate rock fractures and deformation. The effectiveness of fibre optic cables to measure rock properties in a geothermal field, particularly detailed seismic and temperature data, is now being evaluated. Fibre optic cables are also showing promising application in CO2 storage sites particularly for seismic surveys which are used to detect the presence of CO2 in a reservoir.

Recent advances in fibre optic detection systems are leading to higher quality images and improved subsurface interpretation vital to both geothermal energy and CO2 storage. This is an excellent example of how technical innovation can be mutually beneficial in different applications.


Offshore Storage Potential Presented at US DOE Carbon Storage Meeting

TD 2The US DOE held its annual Carbon Storage Review meeting in Pittsburgh 1-3 August. This is always an interesting meeting because all the CCUS R,D&D projects funded by the US DOE have to present and be reviewed, and was attended by some 250 participants. This year was even more interesting because of the sixteen CarbonSAFE integrated projects being presented for the first time. The $44m worth of projects will be reported in a separate report/blog. The US has relatively recently developed interest in offshore CCS, and this meeting saw seven projects being presented.

The four projects funded to undertake offshore storage assessments presented their work and results so far. These were the Northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM) (UT), the Mid-Atlantic (Battelle), the Southeast (GoM and Atlantic) (Southern States Energy Board), and the Ship Shoal (GoM) (Geomechanics Technologies Ic).The projects are covering both sandstone and carbonate reservoirs, have acquired existing data, for example from BOEM, and some have acquired new data such as high resolution seismic. In addition, another project presented on a high-level assessment of storage in GoM in depleting oil and gas reservoirs (NITEC LLC). Each project found large potential storage capacities in their areas, in the many millions of tonnes scale. The high-level study found in the Federal waters in GoM around 4000 Mt CO2 storage capacity in depleted oil and gas fields.

In addition, the CarbonSAFE initiative is funding two offshore assessments in the Phase 1 (pre-feasibility) stage. Cascadia Basin (basalts) (University of Columbia) and Northwest GoM (UT). The Cascadia project is interesting because of its unique storage geology and hence trapping mechanisms by dissolution in water and subsequent mineralisation, all at a deep water location 2600m deep, and potentially transboundary with Canada’s British Columbia. The GoM project is interesting because of the proximity of many large-scale CO2 sources and transport infrastructure options to potential storage sites close by offshore.

Five of these seven projects had presented at the 2nd Offshore workshop in Beaumont Texas in June, possibly the first time an international audience had seen these projects. In conclusion, the USA is quickly gaining knowledge on its considerable potential for offshore storage. This was assisted by hosting the 2nd International Workshop on Offshore CCS in June (see my blog of the 22 June) learning from other countries. When the USA acts, there is no doubt over the quick progress made. Watch this space!


CCS Measuring, Monitoring & Verification (MMV) – Engagement Day, NOC, Southampton 17th July 2017

Secure retention of CO2 in offshore storage sites will depend on reliable measuring, monitoring and verification (MMV) to ensure that any unplanned releases can be detected. The marine environment also needs to be characterised so that potential changes caused by a release of CO2 can be distinguished from natural variability. The Energy Technologies Institute have supported a £5M project to build and demonstrate a MMV system that can meet the demanding technical and legislative requirements for offshore conditions. A consortium of companies and organisations led by Sonardyne in partnership with Fugro and the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, plus associated research contributions from the University of Southampton, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the British Geological Survey have developed a sensor payload for Autosub Long Range (ALR), a long endurance autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). ALR, also known as “Boaty McBoatFace”, has just completed sea trials off the east coast of the UK in the North Sea. It was towed out from the Yorkshire sea-side town of Bridlington to a test site where it was exposed to a subsea release of CO2.

This AUV and its sensing systems has been optimised for an operational window in marine environments of water depths up to 200m, operating at distances of 25 - 150miles (40 – 240km) from land and being capable of surveying the seabed and the water column across a storage complex in one or two deployments.

It can also operate autonomously for in excess of 10 days which avoids the cost of using an expensive survey ship. The AUV is equipped with an array of physical and chemical sensors together with a state of the art multi-aperture side scan sonar that can detect releases of CO2. The ALR’s on-board computer systems provide real-time data analysis and an interpretation capability to enable leaks from CO2 storage sites to be discriminated from other seabed emissions. The suite of physical and chemical sensors can map natural variability in seawater composition and pick out the difference between natural variability and non-biological driven changes that might indicate a leak. The multi-aperture side scan sonar runs an automated target recognition (ATR) algorithm in real time on the sonar data and has been shown to distinguish between a CO2 plume and other features such as a shoal of fish or a ship’s wake.

IMG 8407The offshore sea trials, led by Fugro, involved towing the ALR 12km off the coast of Bridlington. CO2 was deliberately released, supplied by a bank of cylinders placed on the sea floor and two different survey patterns were conducted: a Wide Area Survey (WAS) over a large area to demonstrate baseline survey; and a Fine Area Survey (FAS) covering 500m x 150m box within the immediate vicinity of the release point. The ALR travelled around 400km during the demonstration with a coverage of some 60km2. This North Sea demonstration has shown that that the ALR can be controlled and tracked along a predetermined survey path, being operated from shore (from Southampton) over a period of days with no support vessel on-site, all of the sensor and operational data being communicated back to shore using satellite communications to secure servers. This data was then made available on the Internet using Fugro’s METIS package, showing chemical heat maps, AUV tracks, sonar detections and sonar imagery.

The project has also tested static lander systems that are deployed to the sea floor and can record physical and chemical parameters within their immediate vicinity. These systems can be deployed near sites such as well heads where potential leakage could occur. These have used Sonardyne underwater acoustic communications to transfer data to a surface asset and onwards to the Internet via satellite communications.

The conclusions that can be drawn from the chemical detection system on ALR and landers demonstrate that:
• This state-of-the-art chemical and sonar sensor system on both the landers and the ALR have demonstrated good performance and reliability.
• The lander with chemical sensors has been shown to be effective in detecting small leaks from nearby targets.
• The automatic target recognition algorithm for the multi-aperture side scan sonar was successful in detecting small leaks in real time.
• Chemical sensors mounted in a moving vehicle can be an effective tool where CO2 is released in the dissolved phase and for larger leaks.


Boundary Dam Visit during IEAGHG’s Summer School

Lydia webLast week I was lucky enough to visit my first ever CCS site whilst attending the IEAGHG Summer School. SaskPower hosted the students for a day at Boundary Dam which included a visit to the Shand testing facilities and Aquistore storage site. For me this trip was a particular highlight of the week as I was able to finally see all the research behind CCS being put into action. I feel it has given me a better standing to talk to people and spread the word of CCS, knowing I have seen all of the CCS technologies utilised successfully and seen for myself that these technologies really can work.

We were given a full tour of the Boundary Dam facilities with an introduction to power generation and an explanation of the capture plant technologies. As a geologist it was a great experience for me develop my understanding of capture technologies and better understand the processes behind amine solution capture. I would particularly like to thank the SaskPower team for answering all of the student’s questions, especially on the basics of chemical engineering!

Having heard lots about the Aquistore site it was exciting to see all the monitoring equipment in operation, especially having heard about their fibre optic arrays and GPS monitoring systems at various conferences and meetings. Thank you to PTRC for the tour and great to hear 81,000 tonnes have been safely stored.


IEAGHG Welcomes New Staff Member: Suzanne Killick, Events Programme Manager

SuzanneSuzanne has worked as an Event Manager for more than 20 years, creating and delivering high profile events for companies across the globe.

These companies include : Intel, Vodafone, Cable & Wireless, John Lewis Partnership and Chase de Vere Financial Services Whilst living in the Netherlands for 4 years she worked as the Senior Conference Manager for the European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers (EAGE) and was responsible for the creation and delivery of topical international conferences and workshops, as well as managing specific areas of  the  Annual Conferences and Exhibition. This  Annual event  for 6000 + fee paying  delegates included a  full technical programme of papers and posters, plus field trips and social activities.

She now lives in Cirencester, Gloucestershire with her husband Paul and has two grown up children, both now married, one living in Swindon and one in Seattle USA.


RIP the ICE, “a big plus for transport emissions”

67 JG imageWith the UK the latest country to signal its intent to phase out petrol and diesel cars, it seems we can see the end of the much-loved internal combustion engine (ICE). First invented back in the early 1800’s the ICE has certainly made its mark on society and we remain hooked on our cars. I am not sure myself that an electric car appeals to me more than my 3.0 litre jaguar as a vehicle I want to drive.

However, the reality is petrol and diesel cars are contributors to air pollution that globally leads to millions of premature deaths a year. In addition, cars are the most significant factor to the growth in transport emissions that globally have doubled since 1970 and now represent 24% of all GHG emissions. The introduction of electric vehicles could curtail further increases in road transport sector emissions and then significantly cut emissions from the road transport sector, potentially by as much as 5-6 GT/CO2 per year.

It has to be understood that he electricity supplied for electric vehicles must come from low carbon or carbon neutral sources (renewables, nuclear and CCS). Building new unabated fossil fuel plants to meet the growth in electricity demand resulting from electric vehicle deployment will merely transfer emissions from the transport to the power sector and will not allow the Paris target of below 2C to be achieved.


G20 on Climate, clean energy and CCS.

TD 2There was much news coverage of the G20 meeting and the positions that the US President was likely to take. The end result was a media focus on climate change differences, noting the G20 Declaration allowed the US to state its leaving of the Paris Agreement but also emphasised the robust support by the 19 other countries for the Paris Agreement and its aims, and the role of clean energy development and deployment, which implicitly includes CCUS.

A supporting and more detailed document is in an annex to the Communique, called “G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth”. This reinforces the need for sustainable and clean energy as a means of achieving climate ambitions, and emphasises energy efficiency, renewable energy up-scaling, access to energy security, and reduction of fossil fuel subsidies.

However it does not say much on CCS or CCUS. With no G20 actions covering CCUS, it merely states that “We encourage countries that opt to use CCUS to continue to undertake R,D&D and to collaborate on large-scale demonstration projects”. Obviously this doesn’t recognise that CCS technologies are ready for deployment and the focus should be on encouraging policies for deployment.

For nuclear power it was a little better, noting their GHG benefits, “In those countries that opt to use nuclear energy, it contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to baseload. We call upon those countries to uphold the highest standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation.”

As a German hosted G20, these texts would have been developed by Germany but agreed with all. It seems that no other countries wanted to emphasise CCUS, and were not informed on IEA or IPCC conclusions. Does the US Presidency stepping away from climate change mean that a main advocate of CCUS is now silent and this was the result?

The documents can be seen at: 


Latest news on Kemper disappointing

67 JG imageThe latest news that the authority that governs the Kemper county CCS project will not support any more activities on the lignite fired gasification and CCS plant is extremely disappointing. Unlike projects like ROAD, Kemper has been built and so calling a halt at this stage is a shame. The Kemper project has had its problems mostly with new components and integrating all the new pieces as any engineer knows is always the biggest challenge but step by step the problems faced at Kemper have been resolved one by one.

The new US administration wants to create jobs in the coal sector maybe it can start by saving jobs and put some money into ironing out the last problems at Kemper and get the project going, it has the potential to be a world beater.


New IEAGHG report: CCS Industry Build-Out Rates – Comparison with Industry Analogues

Keith-BurnardOver recent decades, it has become apparent that there is no one single technological solution to solve the problem of reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; a portfolio of low-carbon energy technologies needs to be deployed in parallel. Most climate scenarios targeting 2°C or well below 2°C confirm that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an essential element in this portfolio as it significantly increases the probability of reaching the emission reductions required and at least cost. Roadmaps have established that widespread deployment of CCS is needed to deliver this contribution.

The urgency of accelerating the deployment of CCS increases with time. While ambitions have been growing firmer, through developments such as the Paris Agreement, the pace of deployment of CCS has been slow, with only some fifteen large-scale facilities in operation today. The slow pace, however, has not been due to technical or physical limitations of building out the industry; a major barrier has been the absence of market incentives, compounded by the fact that capture projects need access to transport and storage infrastructures, the development of which takes time. With CCS roadmaps show a steep curve for CCS industry build-out, the question has been raised “Can the CCS industry build out at the rates projected in CCS roadmaps?” To address this question, the study compares the anticipated CCS build-out rates with those achieved in other sectors, where comparable technologies in those sectors have been used as analogues.

The study finds that the rate of build-out in industry analogues has been comparable to the rates now being anticipated for CCS. Considering these analogies, it is shown that, if sufficiently strong incentives for a technology are established, industry can achieve the rapid build-out rates required for the projected scale of deployment. This suggests that CCS development, while requiring substantial growth, may not be constrained by physical limitations in supply chain and industry build-out. However, substantial efforts would be required from both the public and the private sectors to deliver and maintain the anticipated build-out rates over the coming decades. These would include strong market incentives, stable policy commitment, government leadership and public support. While it is recognised that analogies have limitations, this study has shown it to be tenable technically that the anticipated CCS build-out rates can be realised in a supporting environment.


Mission 2020 – 3 years to save the planet

67 JG imageChristine Figueres, who must be given great credit for delivering the Paris Agreement has launched a new initiative – Mission 2020. Mission 2020 is not a new NASA moon shot, but is a new initiative to bring “new urgency” to the “global climate conversation”. Inherent in Mission 2020 is a call to begin “rapidly declining” global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In a letter in the journal, Nature Mrs Figueres and 61 co-signatories (which include climate scientists as well as a range of NGO, religious, political and business leaders) set out their stall that the next three years will be crucial. They argue that if emissions can be brought permanently lower by 2020(not just held static as they have for the last three years) then the temperature thresholds leading to runaway irreversible climate change will not be breached.

An admirable goal let’s hope that all Governments around the world listen and more importantly take urgent action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.


More Articles...