LNG's CCS challenge

AUSTRALIA’S LNG operators will need to take the plunge sooner or later to develop carbon capture and storage facilities, the offshore regulator’s chairman told ICN sister publication Energy News at the historic launch of the $48.4 million National Geosequestration Laboratory in Perth yesterday.

Anthony Barich

The NGL, a collaboration between CSIRO, Curtin University and the University of Western Australia, was supported through a $48 million contribution from the Australian government’s Education Investment Fund.

“Gorgon has done it [taken the plunge on developing its own CCS project] because Chevron took a really long view of what the price of carbon might be,” National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority chairman Keith Spence told Energy New.

“At the moment it’s not economic to do it, but they’ve taken this decision strategically to make that investment.

“Chevron started work in this back before 2000, and the project will come on stream in 2016-17, so the lead time is really long. So people should be looking at this now, but with an eye to doing in 2030 when it’s economic.

“The ability to store large volumes of carbon dioxide safely, at a reasonable price will have a significant impact in securing the benefits of Australia’s energy sector well into the future.

“Carbon capture and storage is recognised internationally as a technology that can reduce carbon emissions. The International Energy Agency believes CCS has the potential to reduce emissions into the atmosphere by as much as 13% by 2050.

“The coal and gas sectors are major contributors to our economy and to our diverse energy mix, and are also vital in powering economic development in some of the world’s most rapidly growing countries, so this research in CCS technology is particularly important for Australia.”

Chevron and its partners received state approvals and licences for the overall project – which has an estimated lifespan of at least 40 years – in September 2009.

Launching the NGL facility yesterday, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane urged industry to take advantage of the world-class facility at its doorstep.

“NGL is well equipped and located in one of the world’s most significant oil, gas, energy and minerals regions, making it ideal for industry to get involved in storage research,” Macfarlane said.

“Industry investment in clean coal technology is essential in order to translate CCS research into commercial applications.”

Chevron’s commercial-scale CCS demonstration project will capture and store between 3.4 and 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – a total of 120MMt over the project’s lifetime, and 40% of its emissions.