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How can we accelerate the scale up of CCS?

Frederik Majkut, SVP of Carbon Solutions at SLB. (Image source: Alain Charles Publishing)

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) was a hot topic at ADIPEC this year. Oil Review Middle East sat down with Frederik Majkut, SVP of Carbon Solutions at SLB, to hear his insights on the potential for scaling up CCS in the Middle East, and the part played by SLB in the CCS value chain

Majkut began by explaining the key role of CCS in decarbonising the hard to abate sectors such as cement, petrochemicals, aluminium and steel, where currently no practical pathway exists towards full electrification. 

“CCS and hydrogen have a key role to play in the energy transition. While CCS is also applicable for fossil fuel power generation, the backbone sectors for CCS are fundamentally the hard to abate sectors, i.e. those you cannot easily electrify.”

Turning to the Middle East, he commented, “The Middle East is a region where CCS is particularly applicable, given the presence of industrial sectors, as well as the predominance of the oil and gas sector. CCS shall have a key role in reducing emissions, in the downstream and petrochemical sectors. 

“Not only is the Middle East a centre of gravity for oil and gas production, on the back of that, the region is blessed with excellent reservoirs for CO2 storage. These come in two forms, either in the form of saline aquifers into which CO2 is permanently injected and effectively sequestered; or in depleted oil and gas reservoirs. Once oil and gas reservoirs that have been producing for decades become uneconomical, they become potential storage reservoirs for CO2 sequestration. So, the Middle East has no shortage of excellent reservoirs for CO2 sequestration, as well as a number of large-scale high-emitting industrial sectors. As a result, you're looking at the proximity of CO2 storage to the emissions sources, which is, I would say, a fundamental part of what makes CCS economically viable.”

“The other advantage the Middle East has is the ability to move fast,” he added. “Unlike Europe, that has a mature emissions trading system, or the USA, where on the back of the Inflation Reduction Act, you have a number of incentives, there is no specific incentive system in the Middle East. On the other hand, what you do have in the Middle East is speed of action; when the leadership in the region starts taking action toward decarbonisation, the pace of implementation accelerates.

“This makes the Middle East an attractive play from a CCS standpoint, and from a hydrogen standpoint. I think this is a region with a lot of potential.”

SLB’s partnership with Aramco and Linde, with the Kingdom’s backing, to develop a large CCS hub in eastern Saudi Arabia near Jubail, home to a number of high-emitting industries, is a good example of harnessing the region’s potential. Almost nine million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of CO2 emissions will be permanently sequestered in the first phase of the project.

Expanding on SLB’s role in the CCS value chain, Majkut explained, “We've been in the CCS space for 25 years, focused mainly on the subsurface characterisation for CO2 storage. That involves helping storage operators with derisking their CO2 storage plays, by which I'm referring mainly to the characterisation of the subsurface, the capacity of that subsurface to take that CO2, and the ability to inject CO2 for decades, because the duration of a typical project will be 20 to 30 years. So, for that length of time, you will need to be able to inject CO2 emissions in supercritical state or gaseous state. If not, the project economics are obviously drastically affected. So, the ability to inject and the capacity of the reservoir are key unknowns that need to be assessed, along with the fundamental safety concerns, ie whether the reservoir has the right cap rock and the right containment structure to ensure that the CO2 stays there. SLB has been involved in more than 120 projects over the years, and we're extremely active in the CO2 storage space.”

At ADIPEC, SLB launched a screening and ranking solution to accelerate the development of safe and economic carbon storage projects.

“Every day we hear announcements around CCS, but few of these projects happen to reach FID so far,” explained Majkut. “What we're trying to do is to help storage operators screen and rank their prospective storage sites, to help them focus their efforts and capital towards those that have the best potential to become CO2 storage projects in the future.” The solution uses both technical and nontechnical data to provide a detailed assessment of the capacity and economic viability of storage sites, while identifying potential risks. 

“The intention is to accelerate industry scale up and derisk it from a safety standpoint and from an economic standpoint.”

“In addition to subsurface storage, the other big item that we're investing in and developing as part of our technology portfolio is a CO2 capture offering, which we are looking to bring to market in the next couple of years,” Majkut continued. “The main driver behind our technology strategy is to reduce the cost of CO2 capture. The cost of CO2 capture is a major element of the value chain, and is estimated to represent 50–70% of the total spend of a CCS project. Therefore, we're investing in a number of technologies, two of which we have announced in the last year. We have entered into a collaboration with RTI International, a non-profit research institute, to accelerate the industrialisation and scale-up of its proprietary non-aqueous solvent (NAS) technology, which enhances the efficiency of absorption-based carbon capture. The NAS technology will be applicable to capture CO2 across a broad variety of industrial emissions. And just a few weeks ago, during Gastech we announced a partnership with TDA Research to co-develop and scale up TDA’s emerging sorbent technologies for industrial carbon capture applications across the power, cement, steel and petrochemical sectors.

“The whole idea is to reduce the cost of CO2 capture and derisk CO2 storage, effectively enabling projects to be safe and economic, and via these technology solutions, we intend to support the industry scale up.”

“At the opening ceremony of ADIPEC, it was underscored that CCS is a key technology that has not yet been scaled up to its full potential,” concluded Majkut. “While the forecasters may diverge on their various climate scenarios, the one thing everyone agrees on is that there is no pathway to net zero without carbon capture and sequestration at scale. This year’s ADIPEC has a strong focus on CCS and hydrogen, because these are some of the low carbon avenues in front of us that have not scaled up yet.”