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Carbon capture, use and storage identified in new Sanedi assessment as having huge potential to slash emissions

24th June 2022

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) has published the first technical assessment on possible pathways to introduce clean coal technology, as well as options for carbon abatement and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), besides others, at existing or new coal-fired power stations.

The new report on clean coal technologies presents a case for potential opportunities and challenges associated with adopting these in a roadmap towards 2030.

The first phase in the development of a roadmap, the report provides an overview of the current energy carbon landscape in South Africa, the fossil fuel value chains and a high-level qualitative approach to ranking various technologies.

It further assesses the feasibility of South Africa introducing technologies to stay carbon neutral when residual anthropogenic carbon remains in the system after 2050.

“The world is in transition on many levels and energy is a part thereof. The focus on climate change is driving key energy decisions internationally and, as always, there are trade-offs to be made in our choice of energy. This, therefore, creates an opportunity to reflect on the future that we envisage and find the road to get there,” says Sanedi renewables manager Dr Karen Surridge.

“To facilitate these choices, this study was initiated to provide valuable insight, mainly into the available technologies for the more effective and efficient generation of power and addressing the greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions produced from these activities,” she continues.

This phase of the work by Sanedi provides three high-level technology roadmaps, namely Power Generation, Liquid Fuels Manufacturing and Transport, which do not dictate technology choice, but rather provide options indicating which technologies are relatively more efficient and their contribution towards GHG emissions reduction.

“It is clear from the study that CCUS is most definitely an avenue that, if explored, would make a significant contribution to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction.”

Owing to the high costs, there are limited coal power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS), with 37 CCS projects in operation, under construction or in advanced development globally with a total capacity of 78-million of tonnes CO2 a year, including all fossil fuel plants.

Major CCS hubs are located in the US, China, Scandinavia, the UK, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“To introduce such technology, South Africa will need to invest in the pipeline and other infrastructure to process, store and transport CO2 to use it in by-products, thereby creating a closed system in which CO2 is captured, stored and reused,” Surridge notes.

Various other additional low-carbon technologies are explored for the South African context, including renewable energies such as wind, solar and biogas.

“The pros and cons of each technology are thoroughly examined in the context of South Africa’s opportunities and limitations in potentially scaling the various options. The technologies applied to electricity generation as well as transport green hydrogen (green H2) technology,” she says.

The report emphasises that the current transmission and distribution infrastructure capacity is a constraint for alternative energy scaling and needs to be upgraded to support the new generation capacities, which could take up to an estimated eight years. The environmental- impact assessment process is the critical path for these projects.

However, a number of projects piloting low-carbon technologies are currently under way.

Surridge cites the Council for Geoscience’s piloting of a CCS project and undertaking research that aims to identify geological storage formations that would be appropriate for storing CO2.

Funded by the South African government and the World Bank, the pilot project aims to store 10 000 t of CO2 at a site in the Leandra region, in Mpumalanga, near the Sasol Secunda plants, which comprises a basalt geological structure which needs to be investigated as a suitable CO2 storage environment.

Sasol plans to produce safe aviation fuels (SAF) at its Secunda petrochemicals plant using the Fischer-Tropsch process and green H2, with plans to supply OR Tambo airport with SAF and thereafter supply the export market.

Sasol also has the option to replace carbon fuel production with sustainable chemical production, she says.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has done extensive modelling around various scenarios of electricity supply and demand and for a variety of energy mixes based on the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.

“In all scenarios, coal power with CCS is more costly than other alternatives such as renewable power,” Surridge points out.

“Coal plants with high efficiency low emissions technology, such as ultrasupercritical plants, do perform at higher energy efficiencies (40% plus); however, the additional capital and operational costs of CCS make them less competitive than renewable power.”

The cost of solar photovoltaic and wind has decreased significantly over the past 10 years, with average tariffs decreasing between 80% and 90%, a trend that is expected to continue as capacity at scale is developed.

The CSIR found that there is a role for natural gas in peaking load service to cover the variability of renewable power.

“The development of technologies and industries that will reduce GHG emissions is a key focus area worldwide.”

“Additional policies and regulations support the development environment and commercialisation of new technologies and to develop industries. This can be achieved through a variety of means, including tax incentives, carbon taxes, grants, subsidies, investing incentives and equity funding,” Surridge concludes.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor




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