INNOVATION IN ENERGY: NEW ENGINE OF GROWTH FOR EMERGING ECONOMIES
How does Enhanced Coal-Bed Methane Recovery work?
The UN estimates that global population will grow more than 20% in this century,mainly in Asia and Africa. These growing populations will increase global demand for food, water, and energy – especially electricity – with concurrent growth in coal consumption. At the same time,the recent Paris Agreement commits195 governments to decarbonize national economies, and to work at their national level to limit future warming to 2ºC or less.
China is a key indicator of what can be achieved with the Paris Agreement,recognizing their continuing dependence on coal on the one hand, and the inclusion of clean coal technologies in their climate plan on the other. China announced that it will ratify the Agreement in 2016 in order to accelerate the Agreement’ sentry into force.
Full ratification of the Paris Agreement is only the beginning of the process: tangible action on high-impact carbon mitigation strategies must follow worldwide.Innovative energy technologies,including technologies for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS),will be essential to achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement. By moving now to promote commercial-scale demonstrations of innovative CCUS technologies, the G20 can play a critical role in accelerating investment in sustainable infrastructure, and growing the global economy.
Coal Drives Growth
According to the INDC Scenario of the International Energy Agency’s Special Report on Energy and Climate Change¹,economic growth continues to be fueled by fossil energy, especially coal. Global coal consumption reaches a plateau around 2020, with usage declining in the OECD but increasing in developing countries. India, China, and Indonesia account for most of this growth in coal use, with associated increases in local air pollution and consumptive water use for energy production.
The IEA’s INDC Scenario envisions the world on a path to a long-term warming of 2.60C. Using this scenario, the IPCC²estimate of the amount of fossil fuel that can be burned and still limit future global warming to 20C is fully exhausted by2040. Additional combustion of high carbon fossil fuels will lead the world further down the path toward dangerous interference in the global climate system.
How Innovative CCUS Technology can Help Meet the Challenge
Cleaner fossil energy technologies can help facilitate the development of intermittent renewable energy technologies and minimize the negative environmental impacts of conventional fossil energy supply and use. One CCUS strategy, in particular, seems likely to create near-term, win-win opportunities that are highly relevant for developing countries.The application of boxy-combustion (i.e., the burning of fossil fuels in a boiler with nearly pure oxygen) in existing and new power plants enables cost-effective capture of highly concentrated CO2.
Co-benefits from applying oxy-combustioncarbon-capture technologies include air pollutant control and making CO2 available as a useful and marketable product. These ancillary benefits help offset the cost of cleaning up coal-fired power plants.
Using the CO2 for ECBM
Local Oil & Gas Companies or other entities are potential buyers and off-takers for CO2 for use in energy production.The captured CO2 from coal fired power plants in conjunction with nitrogen (available from an air separation unit as part of the oxy-combustion technology), can be injected into deep, unmineable coalseams to release trapped methane. In this application, the process is referred toas Enhanced Coal-Bed Methane (ECBM) recovery. This domestically produced cleaner methane substitutes for coal in electricity production or for expensive natural gas imports in developing countries. There have been promising ECBM pilot projects in the U.S., Canada and China.
The cost of ECBM recovery is sensitive to both the geology of the local coal seam and the distance between the unmineablecoal seam and the CO2 “source” facility.The volumes of clean-burning domestic natural gas that can be produced from unmineable coalseams can be significant.
For example, Advanced Resources International estimates that 70 to 90 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of coal-bed methane are present in India4. Of this resource, only 20TCF are recoverable with conventional methods. An additional 15 to 18 TCF are potentially recoverable with ECBM,which would also store billions of tons of CO2 safely and securely underground.Natural gas, including methane, will bean important bridge fuel for decades.
Financing the Transition to a Green Economy
As G20 leaders work on their pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies, new opportunities emerge for financing the transition to a Clean Energy Future. Multilateral investment funds, including the Green Climate Fund, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Trust Funds of multilateral development banks should finance the commercialization of CCUS technology with ECBM. In so doing, these institution swill be instrumental in financing the transition to a Green Economy. Under Article 4 of the UNFCCC³, industrialized countries are committed to underwrite the incremental costs for CCUS and other low-carbon technologies in emerging economies. Financing the development of carbon capture, utilization, and storage with enhanced coal-bed methane production provides win-win options for emerging economies, fuels economic growth, and strengthens energy security.
Jupiter Oxygen Corporation (JOC)has commenced an initial commercial ECBM project in western China, which will include retrofitting coal fired power plants with JOC’s high flame temperature oxy-combustion and CO2capture technologies. This will be the first commercial full scale ECBM project in the world. The recovered methane will provide cleaner energy for China.
Implementing these technologies at scale will facilitate achieving the INDCs, support national efforts to protect local environments, and contribute to the stability of our shared global atmosphere.
1. IEA: World Energy Outlook 2015: INDC Scenario that takes into account all Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) pledges
2. IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
3. UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
4. Advanced Resources International, 2015. “Screening-Level Assessment of CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery and EnhancedCoal-Bed Methane Recovery Opportunities in India,”