Digital MagazineYear 2021

Revisiting the potential of carbon capture technologies


The concept of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies, which date back to the 1970s, is not new. While the technology has continued to evolve over the years, it has not achieved mainstream appeal or widespread adoption in the U.S.

bob slettehaugh, kiewit corporation

By Bob Slettehaugh – Manager, Carbon Capture, Kiewit Corporation

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Capitalizing the benefits

The concept of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies, which date back to the 1970s, is not new. While the technology has continued to evolve over the years; it has not achieved mainstream appeal or widespread adoption in the U.S.

However, with new regulatory and economic drivers on the horizon; along with an increased emphasis on sustainable investment strategies; now is the time to revisit the potential of CCUS. A crucial aspect in capitalizing on the benefits of CCUS; will be the ability to expedite the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of such systems.

To help solidify the feasibility of CCUS, engineering and construction companies are partnering with technology providers to streamline; scale and increase the certainty of project outcomes. Kiewit has embarked on several key CCUS initiatives with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America (MHIA) and Svante, Inc.

Kiewit on carbon capture, use, and storage solutions (CCUS)

One key benefit of these partnerships is the ability to leverage the experience of Kiewit and its affiliate TIC-The Industrial Company; in building the first commercial-sized post-combustion carbon capture system in the U.S. Through the EPC of the Petra Nova facility in Thompson, Texas, CCUS technology was successfully implemented in a real-world scenario.

However, additional research is needed to tailor CCUS to a wider range of applications, and the U.S. Therefore, Department of Energy’s National Energy Laboratory Technology (DOE-NETL) has taken a leadership role in this effort.

Besides, in Illinois, a front-end engineering design (FEED) study for the retrofit of the Prairie State Generating Station is currently underway. Moreover, this project is backed by funding from the DOE-NETL.

Therefore, working under the direction of the Prairie Research Institute within the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Kiewit and other project partners are developing strategies to achieve a net-zero operation. For example, the study includes the design of a system that would capture 95% of carbon emissions at the facility.

Ultimately, the goal is to be “shovel ready” at the end of the study; as well as offer a viable solution that can be deployed at other similar facilities.

A solution for everyone?

DOE-NETL is also funding an analysis of a carbon capture plant at the Kern River oil field in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Therefore, the scope of the study includes the cost-shared development for the design; construction and operation of the plant utilizing Svante’s solid sorbent technology. Similarly, this work reflects strong collaboration between public sector researchers, an EPC contractor and technology provider.

In fact, CCUS will inevitably not be the right solution for all energy providers. Thus, it will depend on a facility’s age, capacity, available on-site space, and location of fuel source.

Nevertheless, it can be the right solution in areas where solar and wind energy generation can not meet reliability and performance standards. CCUS can also be used in conjunction with renewable energy sources to support the transition to lower-carbon energy.

Overall, CCUS has the greatest probability of success when deployed with an integrated project delivery. Moreover, specific subject matter experts should be engaged to effectively navigate the constructability, supplier networks, and the integration of specialty equipment. Furthermore, the effort requires trusted engineering and construction partners with a proven track record of cost and schedule certainty.

Finally, all of these factors help make CCUS more easily attainable to a wider range of applications and facilities. In brief, as carbon capture continues to move from the sidelines to the spotlight; the U.S is well-positioned to move CCUS from concept to reality with steadfast cost and performance guarantees.

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