Sustainable storage significantly reduces CO₂ emissions

Permanent CO₂ storage puts energy transition into top gear
Large Industries
8 February 2021

CO2 capture and storage is an important part of Air Liquide's energy transition plans. The group uses its own technology and participation in a number of large-scale projects to make CO2 storage a practical possibility.

"Of course, we all need to move towards a CO2-neutral society as fast as possible," says Tom Eikmans, Strategic Partnerships Director at Air Liquide. "But if that’s not feasible yet, we’d do well to limit CO2 emissions, from ourselves and other manufacturers, as much as we can."

Air Liquide is looking to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by 2035. One of the ways to achieve this is to filter the CO2 out of residual gases from factories. The CO2 then has to be taken finally to a sustainable storage facility. In most cases the CO2 will first have to be converted to liquid form, but there is also a project in the works allowing CO2 to be transported in gaseous form.

The CO2 capture system, CryoCap™
In 2015, Air Liquide commissioned the first ever CryoCap™ collection system in Port-Jérôme, France. This is a unique installation capable of filtering and capturing, using a cryogenic process, the CO2 co-produced during hydrogen production. Now that it is clear that the plant can operate reliably and efficiently in the longer term, CryoCapTM technology will soon be rolled out more widely, starting with the Air Liquide hydrogen plant in Rozenburg.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
Together with partners, Air Liquide is currently working on three large-scale CCS projects. “Each of these projects is aimed at capturing CO2 and then storing it,” continues Eikmans. “We also supply CO2 to the drinks industry for sparkling water, soft drinks and beers, as well as to the plastics industry. The horticultural sector also takes some CO2 from us."

"But since the quantities needed by these industries are rather limited, we need other outlets. Hence the idea of permanently storing CO2 in cavities beneath the seabed. This is more logical than might first appear, because it uses spaces that have previously contained natural gas that’s been pumped out.”

Porthos - an acronym for the Port of Rotterdam CO2 Transport Hub and Offshore Storage - is a large-scale CCS project whereby several companies (Shell, Exxon, Air Liquide and Air Products) based in the Rotterdam port area aim to capture their factories’ CO2 emissions and store them in an empty gas field beneath the seabed.

The project is an initiative of the Port of Rotterdam Authority (HbR), Energie Beheer Nederland (EBN) and Nederlandse Gasunie. The intention is to construct a CO2 pipeline through the Rotterdam port area leading to a storage site under the North Sea, some 20 kilometres off the coast. The CO2 will be stored in empty gas fields at a depth of between 3,175 and 3,455 metres. The fields are sealed at the top with layers of rock preventing the CO2 from escaping.

"Initiatives like Porthos are a logical consequence of European and Dutch government policies which encourage companies to limit their CO2 emissions as much as possible, subsidising initiatives such as Porthos that help solve the CO2 problem,” Tom Eikmans explains.

"Air Liquide wants to reduce its CO2 emissions significantly and Porthos is one of the levers that can make it possible. At our site in Rozenburg in the Rotterdam port area we want to install a CryoCap™ unit to capture the CO2 from our hydrogen plant."

Technical and economic studies are currently being carried out for the project and a number of permit applications are still pending. In addition, the SDE++ grant application submitted in November 2020 is crucial, as government support is important in such projects. If the final investment decision is taken in 2021, the project could start capturing and storing CO2 by 2024.

Antwerp@C has significant similarities to the Porthos project. In this case, seven major companies in the port of Antwerp (Air Liquide, BASF, Borealis, INEOS, ExxonMobil, Fluxys and Total) have signed a cooperation agreement, with the Port of Antwerp taking the lead, to investigate CO2 capture and storage possibilities, as well as using CO2 as a raw material for various applications. The CO2 infrastructure would be of the open access type, meaning that it could be used by the entire industrial community.

"The aim is, by 2030, to capture half of the CO2 emissions in the port in this way. To achieve this, a central pipeline will have to be built on the left and right banks of the Scheldt and the necessary facilities will have to be provided for the treatment and intermediate storage of the CO2. There are no suitable underground storage facilities in Belgium, so the CO2 will have to be stored elsewhere. This could be possible in the empty Netherlands gas fields or, for example, in Norway (Northern Lights) or the United Kingdom."

The partners are currently studying in detail the project’s technical and economic feasibility. An important part of this is the preparation of the grant application because, just as with Porthos, broad financial government support is vital.

Northern Lights
Northern Lights is a Norwegian project initially limited to decarbonising Norwegian factories. But, when it emerged that the undersea CO2 storage capacity for CO2 in Norwegian waters was considerably larger than was needed for its own industries, it became possible to offer others access to the storage reservoir.

"Along with HeidelbergCement, Fortum, Arcelor Mittal and Stockholm Exergi, among others, Air Liquide concluded an agreement with Northern Lights in 2019. On one hand, we offered our expertise on CO2 transportation and liquefaction and, on the other, there was the possibity of using the storage capacity in the future. The CO2 will be stored in its gas form, but the transport to Norway has to be done by ship, and so the CO2 has to be liquefied," adds Eikmans.

If the Norwegian government makes the decision to invest in the project in good time, Northern Lights should be operational in 2024.