Group plans to bury CO2 under sea

Shipper, power producers to capture carbon on land, store in depleted North Sea oil and gas fields

Reuters Copenhagen: John Acher - December 15, 2009

Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk has teamed up with Finnish power producers Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) and Fortum in a project to capture carbon on land and bury it under the seabed.

The plan, which depends on European Union support, could be the first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the world to involve transport of carbon dioxide (CO2) aboard vessels instead of through pipelines, Maersk officials said.

The partners aim to capture CO2 at the Meri-Pori coal-fired power planton Finland's west coast, transport it on Maersk tankers and store it in depleted oil and gas fields in the Danish part of the North Sea, the partners said Tuesday.

“The aim is to capture, transport and store in excess of 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year,” A.P. Moller-Maersk and Fortum said in joint a statement. “The project aims to be in operation by 2015.”

In addition to storing CO2, Maersk will also explore the potential for injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

“Meri-Pori's CCS demonstration is among the largest post-combustion capture projects yet announced in Europe, the first to combine shipping, cross-border transportation between two EU countries and enhanced oil recovery options,” the companies said.

“CCS has the potential to become one of the key solutions in climate change mitigation,” Fortum's chief executive officer Tapio Kuula said in the statement, issued while 190-nation U.N. talks in Copenhagen were under way on a new global climate agreement.

The project is expected to process half of the 565-megawatt power plant's flue gas and capture 90 per cent of the CO2 from the treated part of the gas, Fortum said.

Germany's Siemens will supply the equipment.

If the Finnish project proves successful, carbon capture and storage could become a whole new business for conglomerate Maersk, which is the world's biggest container shipping line, a tanker operator and oil and gas producer.

Lars Hende, director of carbon and climate at Maersk Oil, said that Maersk is also looking at other CCS projects.

“The partnership we are setting up here is the first step for us to develop CCS as a business,” Hende told Reuters. “Obviously we are focusing now on the storage opportunities we have in our existing fields, mainly in the Danish North Sea, but when the basis of CCS as a business develops, we could look elsewhere.”

Christian Ingerslev, head of Maersk Tankers Gas, said two or three specially designed CO2 tankers would be needed to carry out the project with the Finnish partners, but Maersk could eventually build and operate a bigger fleet of CO2 tankers.

He said that the first tanker order would probably be placed in 2012 if EU support under a scheme to subsidise a number of CCS projects came through in 2011.

He said that a CO2 tanker 160 metres long and with capacity to carry 20,000 cubic metres of gas would cost from $80-million (U.S.) to $100-million, or about twice as much as a conventional tanker of that size.

“It is likely we will build them in Asia - we have developed a design with an Asian yard,” Mr. Ingerslev said.

He said that over time Maersk could build up “a large fleet going from site to site, also outside the North Sea“.

“Our ambition is to be the garbage collectors of the North Sea,” Mr. Ingerslev said, adding that, for emitters, CO2 is waste that needs to be disposed of, not unlike household waste for a private person.

Mr. Ingerslev said there was potential to transport 750 million tonnes of CO2 per year in the North Sea from large stationary sources, such as power plants and steel mills and other energy-intensive plants.

Norway's Statoil has been burying a million tonnes of CO2 per year beneath the seabed at its Sleipner gas field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea since 1996. Unlike the Maersk-Fortum-TVO plan, the CO2 stored at Sleipner is stripped from the natural gas stream instead of from plant emissions.