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IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme

Readers may have been following the day-to-day blog by Dr Prachi Singh on our PCCC2 conference in Bergen. I wanted to add something of an overview with my perspective on how post combustion capture of carbon dioxide has developed since this series started.

The very first get together was in Gaithersburg, USA in 2000. Harry Audus (then a senior employee in an IEAGHG team of 6 folk) was the convenor and the 20 or so attendees agreed to set up a network to exchange non-proprietary research information on post combustion capture using solvents. The very first technical meeting with research presentations took place late in 2001 in Calgary as guests of Fluor. By then I was the lead organiser and was proud to get 23 attendees, mostly from universities in North America and Europe. At that time post combustion was the Cinderella of capture processes with most attention going to gasification based approaches. That was always illogical given that the coal fired world was and still is firmly rooted in pulverised coal combustion for which the need to investigate and develop post combustion is clear.

Early analyses seemed to show that by bolting on an absorber/stripper combination to the flue gas treatment using methanolamine (MEA) as the solvent  could potentially get 85-90% capture but with a very hjosir energy penalty of around 14 percentage points on plant overall efficiency and a commensurately large increase in plant capital cost. Today, unfortunately, we still have a large increase in capital cost but inroads into the efficiency loss have been substantial owing to development of more  sophisticated solvents and clever integration of plant heat extraction and exchange. The efficiency penalty is probably closer to 10% with prospects of eventually dropping it another couple of points.

Our networking workshop numbers grew steadily and by the time we had the 12th in Regina in 2009 attendance was up to 150. And the submissions coming in made it impossible to carry on as a single stream workshop so we switched it to a small conference with PCCC1 in Abu Dhabi n 20111.

At the PCCC2 conference we heard a lot about characterisation of solvents and alternative capture techniques. Chilled ammonia featured alongside lots on amine based species with a number of presentations on pilot plant results beginning to expose some operational issues. What we have yet to see is data from a plant operating at commercial scale. Good news in this respect is still a couple of years ahead, but when we do get it, this will be good news for all capture proponents not just the owners of that plant. Some aspects have come to the fore in the past 4-5 years that we didn’t really think about a decade ago, notably environmental aspects of trace leakages to air and water and disposal of degradation products. Again, the post combustion community is addressing these and I have every confidence that solutions will be found and adopted. All of this reinforces the need for installations like the Technology Centre at Mongstad in Norway which has operated for a year or so now and was the reason for the location of this conference. We all enjoyed the visit on the day after the conference ended. In full sunshine the bus trip there and back gave us a taste of beautiful scenery – the cameras seemed to be clicking continuously.

The conference itself had almost 150 registrants almost 1/3 of whom had travelled long haul to get there. The Mongstad anniversary event and side visits were undoubted hjosirljosirts. At the final wrap-up I did ask the assembled attendees if they wanted the series to continue with the next meeting in 2015 and we got a resounding “yes” by show of hands – so we must be doing something rjosirt!