Welcome return of in person events as IEAGHG ExCo meeting is hosted in Sardinia


By Tom Billcliff

16 May 2022

Following two years of virtual meetings, the IEAGHG Executive Committee (ExCo) met in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, with a two-day meeting on the Italian island of Sardinia.

Hosted by Sotacarbo at the T Hotel, Cagliari, the ExCo took up a kind offer that had been on the table since before the pandemic. While around half the membership joined the meeting online, half actually joined face-to-face for the first time since the Houston ExCo meeting in October 2019, representing an excellent overall attendance.

ExCo members discussed and debated upcoming studies, reviewed work completed over the past 6 months and received updates from fellow members. And, of course, there was time to explore the beautiful city of Cagliari too. Sotacarbo hosted an ExCo dinner on the Tuesday at the Villa Vivaldi restaurant, which included stunning views over the city along with its own walled garden complete with banana, orange and lemon trees. Famed for its diverse cuisine, we were certainly treated to a flavour of the Sardinian delights on offer with a sumptuous four-course meal.

On the Friday following the ExCo meeting, Gianni Serra, our gracious host from Sotacarbo, arranged for members to visit the refining and power generation facilities located at Sarroch, near Cagliari. Owned by Italy’s Saras Group, products from the plant include LPG, gasoline, jet/diesel/gasoil, fuel oil and power.

It was in the mid-1990s that Saras needed to decide how to address their heavy or ‘bottom of the barrel’ residues. Rather than install a hydrocracker to convert them to lighter fractions, it was decided that producing power would be the better solution economically. So, in 2001, the IGCC plant was commissioned and subsequently operated by Sarlux, a subsidiary company within the Saras Group. Heavy products from the visbreaker, along with oxygen, purchased over the wall from Air Liquide, are fed into three GE gasifiers operating at a temperature of around 1200°C and a pressure between 35 and 40 bar. Following sulphur removal from the resultant syngas, the hydrogen is separated (for use in the refinery) with combustion taking place in three parallel, single-shaft, GE combined cycle gas turbines – where around two-thirds of the power is generated from the gas turbines and one-third from the steam turbines.

With a capacity of 575 MWe, the IGCC plant is one of the largest liquid fuel gasification plants in the world. It operates as a cogeneration plant, producing steam for the refinery as well as generating electricity for the grid. In fact, at between 4.2 and 4.5 TWh a year, the IGCC plant satisfies almost half (45.2%) of Sardinia’s electricity demand. The flexibility of the plant to be able to gasify a range of products, from light waxy to heavy sour, is a key strength.

The company, in line with many others, is now looking at how it can move to net-zero emissions over the coming decades. Well, according to Claudio Allevi, Head of Innovation for the Saras Group, carbon capture is set to play a big role in that journey. The Group already have several initiatives underway.

  • The company operates a 126 MW wind farm in Sardinia, generating 267 GWh per year, with plans to increase capacity up to 500 MW by 2025.
  • It plans to develop a 20 MW green hydrogen plant with ENEL Green Power as a first step on route to expansion to 100 MW.
  • Biofuels are also seen to have synergies with the refinery, where one of the existing process units may be exploited.
  • Finally, as mentioned above, with the IGCC plant the source of a concentrated flow of CO2, CCS is considered to have a major role to play. Initially, Sarlux plan to size the capture unit to reduce up to 50% of CO2 emissions from the plant. The company is currently undertaking feasibility studies on various capture processes, including the use of amine solvents and cryogenics.

The staff at the IGCC plant were very accommodating, answering a string of technical and commercial questions put to them by members. The visit comprised an introduction to the facilities, a visit to the IGCC control room and a tour of the plant itself. After more than two years of only seeing two dimensional views of real facilities online, members were really pleased for the opportunity to visit ‘real’ facilities again – one of the key advantages of attending the IEAGHG ExCo meetings in person.

Thanks must go to Gianni Serra and all at Sotacarbo for hosting a fantastic ExCo 61 meeting, to the IEAGHG Events Manager Suzanne Killick and to the events staff at the T Hotel for ensuring the hybrid meeting ran smoothly.

We anticipate seeing many more members later this year at our next ExCo in Lyon, France – which, of course, coincides with GHGT-16. 

With thanks to Keith Burnard for the comprehensive overview of Friday’s site visit.

The ExCo meeting was held in Cagliari, Sardinia. The ExCo meeting was held in Cagliari, Sardinia. The meeting had in person and virtual attendees. The meeting had in person and virtual attendees. IEAGHG members Sotacarbo hosted an evening dinner at Villa Vivaldi ExCo members at Villa Vivaldi ExCo members enjoyed a Friday site visit to Sara’s refining and power generation facilities located at Sarroch, near Cagliari

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