IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme


Pressure Testing Experiment at the Swiss Mont Terri Rock Laboratory

The Swiss are making an important commitment to long-term CO2 sJames-Craig croptorage through international collaboration and research.  This is notably evident at the Mont Terri Rock Laboratory situated in the Jura Mountains about two hours drive north of Lausanne.  This facility has been deliberately constructed within an impermeable shale called the Opalinus Clay which is a potential substrate for high-level radio-active waste storage.  The Mont Terri facility also offers ideal conditions for testing cap rock sealant properties in CO2 storage sites.

The Opalinus Clay has very low permeabilities in the order of nano darcy levels.  It is also dissected by a fault at the Mont Terri site which provides a natural setting for measuring changes in permeability, pressure and associated microseismicity under controlled conditions.  The results of an in-situ fault reactivation experiment were presented in the Geomechanics sesstion on the first day of the GHGT-13 conference in Lausanne.  Three boreholes were drilled into the faulted Opalinus Clay.  Four sections of the faulted formation were selected representing different sections of the structure.  Each section was sealed by borehole packers allowing pressurised water to be injected into the fault.  Three other boreholes were used to detect any associated microseismicity.  Pressure was increased in a series of incremental steps until dilation occurred and a simultaneous drop in pressure followed by a very minor microseismic event.  The scale of this in-situ experiment does need to be placed in context.  The shear on the fault was on the scale of micromillmeters to ~0.4mm and the radius of the induced seismic event occurred over a radius of 1.2m.  The entire experiment from initial pressurisation to dilation, slip and movement took place over a span of 150 seconds.  The value of this type of experiment is that it demonstrates how increases in fluid pressure can change fault properties for short periods.  It also shows how properties such as permeability can vary across a fault.


IEAGHG 50th ExCo

Becky Kemp cropThe 50th bi-annual IEAGHG ExCo meeting has come to a close in the beautiful Swiss city of Lausanne. The two day IEAGHG Executive Committee meeting began on Saturday 12th November and was held in the excellent Hôtel de la Paix. This regular meeting is held twice yearly, at different locations across the world each time, and gives IEAGHG an opportunity to provide our Members and Sponsors with programme progress, an update of recently completed and on-going activities and to approve any future work to be undertaken. It also gives our Members a chance to report back to the Programme on their activities over the last 6 months and any activities planned for the near future.

Exco Sat 12th NovThe Programme’s ExCo Members were given an overview of recent activities such as feedback from the Monitoring and Modelling Networks meeting along with feedback from the 2016 Summer School which was held in Regina, Canada. Tim Dixon eagerly presented on COP22, in Marrakech, as IEAGHG held yet another successful side event. There were also presentations on reports which are on-going and also proposals given for potential new studies for IEAGHG to carry out.

Members agreed to take forward 5 new studies this year (two as technical reviews) – so do stay tuned to see the progress in these various areas; more details will come soon.

15044762 10154710156762250 1181081226 o 1The ExCo dinner at this meeting was held in the elegant restaurant of the Hôtel de la Paix. Members were all very eager to discuss the outcomes of the first day and to have a chance to relax and enjoy the picturesque Lausanne setting.

A full-length article on the 50th IEAGHG ExCo meeting will be available in the upcoming December edition of the IEAGHG Greenhouse News.


Opening Speech GHGT-13 Kelly Thambimuthu

As I spoke to open GHGT-13 today COP22 is underway in Marrakech. It is worth reflecting on the historic agreement that was made at the preceding COP21 meeting held in Paris last year. Paris set us the added aspiration of a new global temperature target of below 20C, even though we are working towards a 20C target. We know very well that even 20C is a challenge with pledges in emissions reduction in the lead up to Paris last year firmly taking us on a closer to 30C path way. There is scientific evidence that we are already locked into 10C of warming. There is a real and very urgent need to get on with tacking climate change through all possible greenhouse gas mitigation options.

We know that CCS is a critical technology to achieve 20C, the IPCC told us that in their 5th assessment report. I believe that going below 20C makes CCS an even more important mitigation option.

The below 20C target also places some challenges on the CCS community:

For CO2 capture, we will need to move towards zero emissions which means 100% CO2 capture. On the CO2 storage side we need to move with more urgency to prove up the geological storage resource particularly in developing countries. Finally, there is the issue of negative emissions. From 2030 onwards if we have not made as much progress in mitigating greenhouse emissions in the early years, then more radical action will be needed. So not just zero emissions but taking emissions out of the atmosphere, i.e., negative emissions will be needed that can be addressed through BIOCCS.

This conference is unique in that it brings CCS researchers from across the globe and across the full chain of the technology together under one roof. As a researcher myself, I look forward to listening to the new developments that we have achieved since we last met 2 years ago in Austin, Texas.


“Keep calm and carry on” - COP-22 underway, with CCS events, and American developments.

67 TDcroppedCOP-22 got underway in Marrakesh in unseasonable heavy rain. Several thousand delegates are gathering at the tented city that is the conference centre for the work to start developing the implementation details of the Paris Agreement, in terms of frameworks, processes and mechanisms.

Negotiations commenced under SBSTA on the Technology Framework in terms of agreeing its purpose, characteristics, structure and themes. Negotiations also started on the future “cooperative approaches”, ie mechanisms, within “Article 6”. These are expected to draw upon the experiences of the CDM and JI mechanisms.

SBSTA also has on its agenda to revisit the two unresolved issues for CCS In the CDM, which were transnational projects and a global reserve. The SBSTA chair proposed to not initiate a negotiation group on this but instead to draft conclusions in consultation with interested countries, so this is likely to be to just to defer this topic to be considered at some point in the future.

image1Today, Wednesday the 9th, the big topic of discussion everywhere is the USA election result, and its implications for climate change. People quickly looked to the legal processes for a country to withdraw from the Paris Agreement – it cannot be done until three years after it came into force (4 Nov 2016) and then with a year’s notice. Whether the USA’s internal process of approval (by ‘executive agreement’) is challenged is a burning question. However it appears that the Paris Agreement has enough parties and percentage of emissions to continue without the USA should the new administration want to leave. There were calls from participants at COP for clear and consistent leadership on climate issues to continue from everyone, including industry. “Keep calm and carry on” was heard more than once.

Our Side-event was held in the UNFCCC area “Blue Zone” on the 8th.November. This was organised by IEAGHG in collaboration with the University of Texas, CO2GeoNet and CCSA. Titled “CCS Opportunities for Africa” we had scene-setting presentations from ourselves on the context of CCS in the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement, and from Ghana on the economic potential of CCS for the whole of Africa in terms of decoupling emissions from their economic growth. We had updates on CCS activities from South Africa, Nigeria and opportunities for collaboration from The International CCS Knowledge Centre in Saskatchewan, CO2GeoNet, and on offshore opportunities and CSLF and CTCN from the Gulf Coast Carbon Center at the University of Texas. More than 80 attended with a high level of interest and we had more questions than time allowed, so many discussions continued outside the event. IISD chose to cover our event and their coverage is available at 

In the meanwhile, the CCS booth had a steady stream of interest, with CO2GeoNet colleagues doing a great job of manning it at all hours.
IEAGHG also presented at the following event:

  • 7 Nov. 1830-2000. CCS is necessary for meeting 2C. Venue: EU Pavilion, Blue Zone. Organiser CO2GeoNet. IEAGHG talk title: “CCS in achieving negative emissions”

And IEAGHG will be presenting at the following events:

  • 10 Nov. 0900-1030. CCS what its all about and why we need it. Venue: Green Zone. Organiser CO2GeoNet. IEAGHG talk title: “Why we need CCS”.
  • 10 Nov. 1530-1630. Climate readiness – Ocean based adaptation and mitigation. Venue: UK Pavilion, Blue Zone. Organiser PML. IEAGHG talk title: “Large scale CCS - pros and cons for the oceans”.

The overall outcomes hoped for at COP-22 are agreed plans to enable the implementation of the many parts of the Paris Agreement. Like at COP-6.5, the US election results may make the efforts even more earnest.


CTCN Makes Significant Progress

67 JG imageThe Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) set up in 2003 is the implementing arm of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Technology Mechanism. The CTCN, promotes the accelerated development and transfer of climate technologies for energy-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient development. On November 4th 2016 the CTCN published its 23year progress report, ahead of COP22. The report can be found at:
CTCN works as follows: Countries, working through national representatives, convey their technology requests. The CTCN then mobilizes relevant technology experts from a global network of 230 technology institutions to design and deliver a customized solution. 

Between January 2014 & August 2015 the CTCN received 44 requests for Technical Assistance between September 2015 & August 2016 the number of request jumped to 96. These requests were submitted for assistance as follows: 31% Adaptation, 40% Mitigation & 29% Adaptation & Mitigation. Mitigation related requests were predominately for renewable energy (36%) and energy efficiency projects (34%). Of the requests 66% were national in nature and & 75% were considered eligible for support. Requests were broken down as follows: 15% Policy, planning & law, 11% Project readiness & facilitating financing, 5% Research & development, 24% Tech identification & selection, 16% Training, awareness raising & sharing experience 29% Tech feasibility, piloting & selection.

Going forward if COP22 and future COPs are successful in getting countries to commit strong mitigation actions, the CTCN will able to support the countries actions.


COP22 Starts

67 JG imageComing straight on the heels of the ratification of the Paris Agreement COP22 in Marrakech starts today. the COP22 will focus on action items in order to achieve the priorities of The Paris Agreement, especially related to adaptation, transparency, technology transfer, mitigation, capacity building and loss and damages.

At yesterday’s opening ceremony, Salaheddine Mezouar, President of COP22 declared that COP22 will be one of action. We thoroughly hope so.

The focus going forward starting at COP22 is to encourage countries to commit to a low-carbon economy.
Nizar Baraka, President of the COP22 Scientific Committee, “we must encourage our respective countries to commit in a strong way to sectors related to the green economy in order to take advantage of associated growth and job opportunities.” This means preserving the sustainability of our development models and improving the access to, conditions of use and development of green technologies.


New IEAGHG Report: 2016-13 Fault Permeability

James-Craig cropFault zones are widely recognised as being important to the secure long term storage of CO2 as they could provide a leakage pathway out of the target reservoir. Fault characterisation within reservoirs, especially where they extend into caprock, and other overlying formations, needs to be thoroughly understood as part of any risk assessment for CO2 storage. The aim of this study is to review what is known about the permeability of fault zones in order to highlight under what circumstances faults may impact overall storage integrity.

The behaviour of fault zones in relation to sub-surface fluid migration is important to many industries and consequently has been comprehensively documented in the literature. CO2 operations involve the injection and pressurization of reservoirs usually resulting in changes to the state of in-situ stresses which may modify fault properties. Instability could lead to slippage along pre-existing faults or fracture systems, which may be associated with seismicity. In addition, the movement of faults, and the generation of factures within the damage zone adjacent to the core, may create conduits that lead to the leakage of fluids to the surrounding overburden or even to the surface.

In 2015 IEAGHG published a study reviewing the geomechanical stability of faults during pressure build up which provided a helpful background to the behaviour of faults in stress regimes relevant to CO2 storage. This study is designed to build upon the previous work and provide a significantly broader review of the current state of fault zone permeability and also to investigate what mitigation options may be available to CO2 storage operations if leakage was to occur.

Key Messages

  • CCS requires the secure retention of CO2 in geological formations over 1000’s of years.  To achieve this, characterisation of target injection formations, and their structural features including faults, is essential to ensure leakage does not occur.

  • Faults can either act as barriers to fluids, or as conduits for migration.  Consequently, the properties of faults that dissect or form a boundary with potential CO2 reservoirs, need to be determined.

  • The significance of faults has long been recognised in the petroleum, mining and geothermal industries, but CO2 storage is less mature and more experience and research related to faults would be beneficial.
  • The objective of this study was to review recent research on the permeability (a measure of the ability of rocks to transmit fluids) of faults in CO2 storage, particularly how different geological processes can either cause faults to help retain fluids within a reservoir, or lead to migration along or across faults.  It builds upon an earlier study which looked at the role of geomechanical stress on faults.
  • There is widespread experience of working with faults and fractures and provided there is sufficient characterisation of their properties they should not restrict storage development.
  • If fault zones are present they need to be carefully characterised to ensure the development of an effective containment assessment and to inform the development of operational constraints and monitoring plans.
  • A number of mitigation measures have been proposed to counter potential leakage.  These include hydraulic barriers, biofilms and reactive cement grout.  Changing subsurface pressure has been seen to be effective: there is strong evidence of the reduction in flow of a natural hydrocarbon seep caused by depletion of an offshore oil reservoir hydraulically linked to the seeps.


Regional Assessments of the Economic Barriers to CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery in the North Sea, Russia and GCC States

James-Craig cropThe use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is a well established commercial practice in the United States where it has been used for over 40 years. There is widespread potential for CO2-EOR in other mature petroleum producing regions. If CO2-EOR could be implemented it would offer an economic stimulus to develop CO2 storage. There are, however, a number of barriers, not least the installation of infrastructure and modifications that would be necessary to supply CO2 and inject it into target reservoirs. This study has looked at the challenges faced by the prospect of CO2-EOR in three regions: the North Sea; Russia; and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states which is a regional political organisation comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition to the technical challenges the study included two hypothetical examples, one based on the North Sea and the other in a GCC state, to explore what economic conditions would be necessary for CO2-EOR to be implemented. The most significant factor that influences of CO2-EOR uptake is the prevailing price of oil. The injection rate, capital expenditure (CAPEX), operational costs (OPEX) and tax incentives are of secondary importance. Despite the challenges posed by this form of EOR there is growing interest in its use in Saudi Arabia where and Saudi Aramco launched the Uthmaniyah CO2 EOR demonstration project in July 2015. There are also plans for CO2-EOR in China for a potential project offshore Guangdong Province.

Key Messages:

  • Approximately 95% of all CO2 EOR activity takes place in the U.S., and in 2010, CO2 EOR projects were producing approximately 300,000 barrels of oil per day, close to 4% of total U.S. oil production.  To achieve this quantity of oil, approximately 60Mt of CO2, is injected annually into oil fields.
  • Investment in CO2 EOR is highly constrained by the volatility of the price of oil.  For EOR projects to remain profitable over their operational life the cost of supplied CO2 supplied needs to fluctuate.
  • Offshore production relies on fewer deviated wells with less spatial coverage of producing areas which is less advantageous for CO2 EOR compared with onshore 5 or 9 spot closely-spaced injection and production well configurations commonly used in North America.  This configuration provides a higher density and control for EOR operations.
  • Experience with CO2 EOR shows that the projected incremental recovery ranges from 7% to 23% of Original Oil in Place (OOIP).  Estimates for CO2 EOR recovery rates for the North Sea range from 4 – 18%.
  • Based on previous estimates of suitable fields, and a 3 barrel/tonne of CO2 recovery rate, the estimated incremental oil potential for the Norwegian sector could be 3,535 M barrels that would require 1,180 M tonnes of CO2.  In the UK sector an additional 2,520 M barrels could be recovered with 840 M tonnes of CO2.
  • The main factors that currently inhibit investment in offshore CO2 EOR are the upfront investment costs, loss of oil production during work-overs and lack of significant CO2 volumes.


New IEAGHG report: Evaluation of process control strategies for normal, flexible and upset operation conditions of CO2 post combustion capture processes

Jasmin cropIt is important for power plants to be able to operate flexibly to respond to changes in consumer demand for electricity. Flexibility is also becoming increasingly important due to the greater use of other low carbon generation technologies, particularly variable renewable generators. The issue of operating flexibility of power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been the subject of a previous technical study by IEAGHG (“Operating flexibility of power plants with CCS, IEAGHG report 2012/6, June 2012”, see here: The new report contributes to the knowledge base on flexible operation of power plants with CO2 capture by focusing on process control issues.

A team from Imperial College London and Process Systems Enterprise has undertaken this work for IEAGHG.
The study focuses on performing an evaluation of process control strategies for normal, flexible and upset operation conditions of CO2 post-combustion capture (PCC) processes based on solvent scrubbing. PCC is currently the leading near-term technology for large-scale deployment of CO2 capture in the power generation sector. The aim of this study was to develop process control strategies PCC, to select appropriate control variables, and to design efficient control structures for operation with minimum energy requirements and costs for both pulverised coal (PCPP) and combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants.

The key messages from the report are:

  • Electricity market models suggest power plants with CCS will need to adopt flexible operation in the future. Appropriate control strategies will be necessary to ensure their ability to operate in such a market and their profitability.
  • An evaluation of process control strategies for normal, flexible and upset conditions of PCC processes (considered the leading technology for deployment in the power sector) based on amine scrubbing has been undertaken.
  • This work used a high-fidelity modelling tool that can describe the dynamic operation of the CCS chain to investigate 3 different process control strategies for both PCPP and CCGT, each with PCC.
  • The power plant modelling showed the performance of the CO2 capture unit can be maintained even during periods of significant load fluctuation, using industry standard control techniques, thus avoiding other more expensive solutions.
  • Manipulating the solvent flow rate generally provided better control of the CO2 capture rate than varying the solvent lean loading, as it results in less oscillation, i.e. more constant hydraulic conditions in the CO2 capture plant.
  • For the PCPP, a control strategy that manipulates the CO2 capture rate by varying the solvent flowrate is the more profitable option. For the CCGT, all strategies provided the same benefit, due to the dilute nature of the CCGT flue gas.
  • The CO2 capture plant was able to continue operation for a limited amount of time, i.e. 3.5-5 hours, in case of hazardous events, such as injection shutdown or loss of compression.
  • In conclusion, this study has shown that simple and well-tuned control strategies can maintain critical operational parameters of a CO2 capture plant.


Visit to Tomakomai Project

67 TDcroppedDuring the CSLF week of meetings in Tokyo, the Japanese hosts RITE and JCCS Company arranged for a day visit to the Tomakomai project on the northern island of Hokkaido. This project is capturing CO2 from a gas stream from the hydrogen production unit at the Tomakomai refinery using a unique two-stage pressure swing absorption system, and injection of the CO2 into one of the two deep saline formations selected started in April 2016. The intention is to capture and inject 100kt CO2 per year. The two injection wells are onshore, and deviate to inject offshore, with well lengths of 3.6km and 5.8km. There is an intensive monitoring strategy, with observation wells, ocean bottom seismometers, an ocean bottom cable for natural seismicity and microseismicity measurements, and environmental monitoring at the seabed and water column (much of which has been shared at IEAGHG Network meetings – with good international cross-fertilisation of ideas). This is all done in a busy offshore environment, with an offshore oil terminal for the refinery close by to the injection site. Injection will continue to 2018 and monitoring for a further two years. There is a good public engagement campaign which involves the local fishing industry and also monitoring data being shared in real-time at the City Hall.


We look forward to learning a lot from this project, particularly in terms of the detailed monitoring and regulatory aspects. We are very pleased that METI will be giving a talk on the Tomakomai project as one of the technical plenary talks in GHGT-13, and Japan CCS Company will be showing more about Tomakomai in their booth at GHGT-13.


Congratulations to JCCS Co Ltd, and METI, RITE and other partner organisations in achieving successful construction and commencing operation of this demonstration project, and thank you for the visit.


Climate Scientists say 1.5C is inevitable.

67 JG imageIn a recently published paper called “The Truth about Climate Change”, a group of climate scientists tell us that,

“By 2015, the global temperature had risen by 1°C above pre-industrial levels, that it is certain to rise another half a degree by 2030 and will continue to rise to 2°C by 2050 unless drastic action is taken to reduce emissions”

The scientists inform us to have any hope of solving the problem, the world needs to reach net zero emissions by 2060 to 2075. Switching to renewables and planting more forests are important components of how to do this, it cannot be achieved by these methods alone, only by deploying carbon capture and storage do they feel can zero emissions be achieved in time.


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