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Carbon Capture and Storage Environmental Permits

Carbon Capture and Storage Environmental Permits are a relatively new addition in terms of their consideration under the IPPC Directive, and the Environmental permitting regulations England and Wales.

Carbon Capture and Storage captures around 90% of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels. Interestingly but not often mentioned is that it would also capture carbon dioxides from burning biomass (wood / straw) which would result in in carbon negative energy solution.

Methods of Carbon Capture

There are three main methods my which carbon dioxide is separated from the combustion gases, description courtesy of CCS Association:

Pre-Combustion Capture

"A pre-combustion system involves first converting solid, liquid or gaseous fuel into a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide using one of a number of processes such as ‘gasification’ or ‘reforming’"

Post Combustion Capture

"CO2 can be captured from the exhaust of a combustion process by absorbing it in a suitable solvent. This is called post-combustion capture. The absorbed CO2 is liberated from the solvent and is compressed for transportation and storage. Other methods for separating CO2 include high pressure membrane filtration, adsorption/desorption processes and cryogenic separation."

Oxy-Fuel Combustion

"In the process of oxy-fuel combustion the oxygen required is separated from air prior to combustion and the fuel is combusted in oxygen diluted with recycled flue-gas rather than by air"

Methods of Carbon Storage

And ideal geological unit for the the storage of captured CO2 will be highly porous and completely confined. i.e. once the gas has been introduced in to the geological unit there be now way of it escaping.

There are a number of sites running world wide where this is already happening, and IPCC has found that retention rates are very high, when considering escape of gas over a 1000 year period, with 99% of OC2 retained over the period. One such site is the Sleipner Gas Field, where carbon capture and storage has been in operation since 1996. The facility is run by Statoil.

The Sleipner Gas Field utilises the Utsira Formation, for storage of CO2.  The formation consists of dominantly thick, blocky marine sandstones with thinner intercalated claystones. The Utsira Formation forms an elongated sandy system approximately 450 km long and 90 km wide, at 350 meters thickness in places, the Utsira Formation makes for a sizable potential storage unit.

Applying for a Carbon Capture and Storage Environmental Permit

As with any environmental permit application the aim will be to minimize environmental risk. This will cover the long and short term potential impacts of the permits operation.

Environmental Management of the process will have to be considered this will cover day to day activities involved in the operation of the system, as well as less frequent but potential high risk activities such as repairs, or incidents. An Environmental Risk Assessment will form a key part of this management system and should be completed to a high level of detail.

There will be risks associated with geological aspects of the Carbon Capture and Storage facility, and these will have to be investigated and presented to the Environment Agency in the form of a supporting document prior to the grant of the permit. The geological assessment will have to consider the suitability of the rock formation in terms of capacity and estimated longevity of storage. This would likely be completed off the back of desktop data.

New CCS plants will be expected to achieve BAT, existing plants will be required to achieve BAT if economically feasible.

As the name suggests the Carbon Capture and Storage permit cover the capture and the storage, in addition to this it will also cover the method of transfer i.e. pipe line or road tanker. A pipe line will create risks such as freezing or asphyxiation, these risks will have to managed, and proof that you have considered the risks and how they are to be mitigated must be incorporated within you Environmental Risk Assessment.

Another risk associated with the process at the capture stage is with the use of Amine. Amines are derivatives of ammonia, wherein one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a substituent such as an alkyl or aryl group. Low molecular weight amines, such as ethylamine, are toxic, and some are easily absorbed through the skin. Many higher molecular weight amines are, biologically, highly active. Release of amines to the atmosphere, and their effect of local receptors must be carefully considered during the application for a Carbon Capture and Storage permit.

If you are intending on applying for a Carbon Capture and Storage Environmental permit then please contact us (top of page) and we will offer up a plan of action.