CCUS Fast-Track: How Policy and Seal Technology Drive Decarbonization | 2024 | Blog | Resources | John Crane

CCUS Fast-Track: How Policy and Seal Technology Drive Decarbonization

29 February 2024

8 Minute Read

As industries around the globe move toward a net zero future, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) stands out as a practical approach to decarbonization. When implemented, CCUS technologies gather carbon dioxide emissions and repurpose them beneficially and/or store them securely, thereby preventing their release into the atmosphere.

Driving these initiatives is a combination of forward-thinking policies and cutting-edge CCUS technologies. The policies serve as directives, pushing industries to deploy and enhance decarbonization efforts. And technology such as dry gas seals contributes to the efficiency and scalability of CCUS operations.

Together, policy and technology are driving CCUS forward, enhancing its effectiveness in enabling our industry's low-carbon transition.

Types of CO2 Capture & Use

Carbon emissions must be captured before being put to use or stored. Three general types of carbon capture are available today: pre-combustion, post-combustion and oxy-combustion. The technologies are in various stages of maturity, but the most widely employed involve chemical absorption and physical separation.

Pre-combustion

This entails converting fossil fuels like natural gas into synthetic gas (syngas) and using chemical reactions to extract carbon for collection. The now-carbonless syngas is then burned, typically to generate electricity. In this process, CO2 removal takes place pre-combustion.

Some industrial applications are already successfully incorporating pre-combustion carbon capture, but scaling up efforts will require significant capital.

Post-combustion

Post-combustion uses solvents or other absorption materials to trap the carbon in the flue gases produced by fossil fuel combustion, thus preventing the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. Post-combustion technology is not as advanced as pre-combustion, with further development needed for it to be feasible at scale.

Oxy-combustion

Oxy-combustion is undertaken by burning fossil fuels in a pure oxygen environment, emitting only CO2 and water vapor (for the most part). From this stage, the CO2 is easily removed and captured, thus diverting it from the atmosphere. The technology for oxy-combustion is in its early stages; however, since oxy-combustion produces fewer emissions than either pre- or post-combustion, it is a promising pathway to fast-track decarbonization.

Once captured, there are various ways to put carbon dioxide to use. In processes where CO2 is feedstock, captured emissions can be re-injected back into the system to support production.

Another possibility is to combine the CO2 with other materials to make a synfuel for creating products such as plastics or adhesives or, alternatively, to form carbonates that support cement and concrete manufacturing. In the food and beverage industry, CO2 capture can be used more directly to carbonate beverage products.

The utilization and/or transportation of CO2 is sometimes impractical — for instance, in isolated environments. In this case, storage is an effective method for sequestering emissions. Geological storage involves injecting CO2 into underground rock formations such as depleted oil and gas reservoirs, saline formations or nonviable coal seams. This infusion permanently stores CO2, preventing its release into the atmosphere.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage are key levers for reducing emissions in fossil fuel-driven industries such as power generation and petrochemical processing. Carbon capture technology is particularly appealing to the power generation sector, as it allows for the continued use of fossil fuels while the global move toward clean, new energy gains strength.

Advantages of CCUS

In 2022, global CO2 emissions from the energy sector alone reached 37 billion tonnes — a far cry from the goal of Net Zero by 2050. However, if strategically deployed, CCUS technologies have the potential to immediately reduce carbon emissions, particularly when implemented in power plants that use coal and gas.

For reducing emissions at scale, CCUS is well-positioned for widespread adoption. Carbon capture is already a mature technology that has proven effective up to 90% in industrial use. With future development, there is the potential for systems with capture rates as high as 99%.

A key advantage of CCUS is that it bridges the use of conventional fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. By leveraging CCUS today, industries can reduce CO2 emissions while continuing operations and working toward building the new energy economy. Bridging the gap facilitates a smooth transition to a low-carbon future and, at the same time, maintains energy security.

Technical Challenges of CCUS

While CCUS holds immense potential in combating climate change, its implementation isn’t without hurdles. Complexities accompany this transformative technology on its path to widespread deployment.

Today, incorporating CCUS into existing applications is more commonplace than designing carbon capture as part of a new build. However, this retroactive approach means developing a scope particular to each facility or plant and adapting infrastructure and CO2 handling to the facilities.

Implementing CCUS technology, handling, transportation and storage requires significant planning and investment and potential facility modifications to accommodate the new infrastructure. In short, retrofitting can be a costly endeavor.

These concerns could be addressed by improving the efficiency of CCUS technology to lower operational costs and establishing policies to fund CCUS projects, further easing the financial burden on industries. This two-pronged approach could make carbon capture an immediately compelling strategy for reaching carbon emission goals.

As an additional challenge, CO2 requires transport to where it can be stored or utilized, and there are currently few transportation choices. Options for long-distance transportation include pipeline, trucking and cargo ship. There are also necessary support systems for moving carbon dioxide: high-pressure compressors for gases and low-temperature systems for liquid CO2.

Sealing and sealing support technology will factor into many stages of CO2 transportation. Advanced sealing solutions sustain the reliability, efficiency and environmental performance of CO2 handling. Dry gas seals for compressors and related equipment offer superior sealing and emissions-capture capability, specifically when paired with additional technologies such as:

Read this case study to see how John Crane’s innovative technologies are revolutionizing power generation in the world’s first supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power cycle plant.

Technological innovation and supportive policies are essential for unlocking the full potential of CCUS as a tool for mitigating the environmental impact of CO2 emissions.

Influence of Carbon Taxes & Incentives

Both carbon tax penalties and green incentives can accelerate the adoption of CCUS technologies. These policy mechanisms shape industry practices and have the potential to encourage the reduction of carbon emissions at a worldwide scale..

A range of geographical policy variations influence the deployment of CCUS; differences often stem from national priorities and economic landscapes.

  • Europe favors a cap-and-trade system to encourage curbing carbon emissions. There is heavy investment in renewable energy, including wind, solar and biomass, to speed the phasing out of coal-fired power generation.
  • The U.S. has carbon policies that vary across states with no established federal carbon pricing. Some states, like California, have a cap-and-trade system and clean energy standards, while others lack comprehensive regulations.
  • Canada employs a mix of provincial and federal carbon pricing mechanisms. Some provinces shoulder heavy carbon taxes, while others employ a cap-and-trade system.
  • Asia is moving toward creating policies to limit carbon emissions and several nations are exploring the implementation of carbon taxes or green incentives. To date, Singapore is the only country in Asia to implement a carbon tax, while China is piloting emissions trading projects.

Penalties and incentives work together to accelerate a sustainable, low-carbon future. Carbon taxes push industries forward by making it more economically viable to capture and store CO2. Taxes could also encourage investments in solutions like advanced sealing technology to mitigate emissions.

On the other hand, green incentives (such as credits and subsidies) entice industries, providing tax reductions and financial support to address the upfront costs of CCUS projects. Government research funding and public-private partnerships can also encourage CCUS deployments.

Additional Actions to Accelerate CCUS

Carbon capture is fundamental to mitigating climate change as it has the potential for immediate, significant carbon emission reductions, especially in sectors such as power generation.

Supportive policies are a meaningful step toward accelerating CCUS integrations, but more effort is required to encourage adoption. For instance, setting clear and appropriate standards for CCUS technologies could reduce barriers.

To this end, consider the American Petroleum Institute (API) standards. These standards are prevalent in many oil- and gas-type applications. However, industries employing non-hazardous process fluids, such as renewable energy power plants or greenfield hydrogen projects, sit outside the oil and gas realm. API design philosophies are needlessly robust and burdensome for these players in terms of cost and efficiency.

CCUS implementations would benefit from a globally accepted approach with some flexibility to scale based on project size and specific requirements. A modular agreement could lead to standard designs and prefabricated, cost-effective components that expedite deployment and lower risk.

Providing mentorship, technical support and knowledge-sharing to guide industry newcomers through CCUS projects could fast-track implementation. So could policies offering financial incentives for infrastructure updates.

John Crane’s CCUS Solutions

As carbon capture, utilization and storage requirements evolve, industries will need innovative solutions to support efficient and reliable CCUS deployment. John Crane has nearly three decades of experience developing sealing technologies to support carbon capture initiatives. We’re working alongside industry leaders to address climate change, and our sealing solutions have enabled some of the world’s most advanced initiatives.

Learn more about John Crane’s CCUS expertise and contact our experts for solutions that accelerate your decarbonization progress.

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