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International ECRA/Norcem Conference

World Cement,

ECRA and Norcem have long been cooperating on CCS. In May 2015 they organised their first joint international conference on CCS in Norway. Around 140 participants from the cement industry, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and energy, research institutes, governmental organisations, NGOs and other process industries participated in this two-day expert meeting. The first results of pilot tests at the Norcem plant in Brevik were presented by the different technology providers, and ECRA highlighted its path towards the construction of an industrial-scale oxyfuel kiln. The conference successfully underlined the progress that the cement industry together with its partners has made in CCS research. It is now important to continue the different projects and maintain the focus on the technical and economic feasibility of carbon capture.

Tord Lien, the Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, opened the conference and in his presentation emphasised that Norway will continue on its course towards carbon capture, highlighting the additional focus on storage as a main instrument to substantially reduce CO2. The Minister’s main message was that Norway wants to maintain its leading position in CCS. CCS in the industry is regarded as an important tool to reach the country’s ambitious goals, which include the realisation of one full-scale CCS demonstration project in Norway by 2020. He described the Norcem project as one of the most promising, and congratulated Norcem on its achievements so far.

CCS in the cement industry

Daniel Gauthier, the Chairman of ECRA’s Technical Advisory Board and a member of the Board of HeidelbergCement, highlighted the cement industry’s road towards a low carbon economy, comprising the reduction of the industry’s carbon footprint by 32% compared to the 1990 level by conventional means, as has already been achieved, and the envisaged potential further reduction through new breakthrough technologies such as CCS. In this context the industry has put a strong focus on CO2 reduction in the downstream use of cement and has also initiated joint research within ECRA on carbon capture.

The Norcem project consists of four individual technologies, which have been tested at the Brevik plant:

  • Solid sorbent technology by RTI.
  • Amine technology by Aker Solutions.
  • Membrane technologies by a consortium under the lead of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  • Carbonate looping by Alstom Power.

Post-combustion technologies.

Although research is ongoing, post-combustion absorption by amines as demonstrated by Aker Solutions is from a technical point of view today the most advanced technology. In this context it was shown that a special approach in the cement industry could take advantage of excess heat from the clinker burning process. The available waste heat could cover the heat demand of an amine scrubber capturing 40 – 50% of the total CO2 emissions. In this case no additional energy would be needed for the desorption process, with a corresponding reduction in the specific abatement costs. While the technology is seen to be in principle ready for full-scale demonstration, application to the cement process still requires further investigations, particularly with regard to layout, practical integration and cost estimates.

The results of adsorption using a solid sorbent technology were presented by RTI. The results are very promising and fairly well on track towards the next phase, but are not yet at demonstration scale.

Membrane absorption is definitely in the early phase of R&D. While progress is expected due to new membranes and a new set-up in the subsequent path of the project, it is too early to give any outlook on a potential application in the cement industry.

Alstom presented carbonate looping technology, which could achieve 95% of capture. The set-up might appear more complicated, but the clinker production process with its calcination and its inherent handling of CaCO3 and CaO provides promising potential to further improve this technology in the cement industry. The final gas stream is expected to have a high CO2 content, which would not require dedicated capturing but only gas cleaning and subsequent CO2 processing.

Martin Schneider from ECRA explained ECRA’s road towards an oxyfuel kiln at industrial scale. Based on its research so far, ECRA has decided to further continue its work, which is now ready for full scale testing of the oxyfuel process. It has emerged that the best size for such a kiln would be from 500 – 1000 tpd. This would allow operating the kiln under real conditions and at the same time would limit the operating costs in the test phase. ECRA is currently evaluating potential sites, examining so-called brownfield and blackfield sites. Both sites can take advantage of existing plant infrastructure characteristics such as raw meal and coal. The brownfield scenario would be a new kiln next to an existing one whilst in the blackfield scenario an existing kiln would be retrofitted for oxyfuel combustion. Both options have their particular advantages and disadvantages. An opportunity study as the first step towards a preengineering study was recently finalised, which looked at the feasibility of the scenarios and the corresponding investment costs as well as the potential risks in setting up and commissioning the respective kiln. The main question within the whole concept is the use of the kiln after the test phase. This has a tremendous effect on the overall costs and as a consequence also on future funding. ECRA’s Technical Advisory Board will evaluate the outcome of the opportunity study and the potential business cases. The progress of the project will then depend on the funding that can be raised to initiate this industrial-scale trial.

The conference in Norway underlined the industry’s current state of knowledge and research on CCS. Many speakers – in addition to those mentioned – shared their expertise and knowledge and demonstrated the broad overall scope of the technologies currently being developed by many institutes and universities, technology providers and cement producers.

All presentations held at the conference are available at:

This article was originally published in Newsletter 2/2015 of the European Cement Research Academy and is reproduced by kind permission of ECRA.

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