Carbon Capture and Storage in South Africa
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The South African government's Long Term Mitigation Scenario (LTMS) allows for the construction of major new sources of carbon emissions including a new coal-to-liquids plant and two additional coal-fired power stations. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has been identified as one possible 'wedge' in a carbon emissions reduction strategy.
In July 2008 the South African government announced that its greenhouse gas mitigation strategy included commitments to introducing a carbon tax and "diversifying the energy mix away from coal whilst shifting to cleaner coal, by for example introducing more stringent thermal efficiency and emissions standards for coal fired power stations." The government also emphasised a commitment to "exploring and developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal fired power stations and all coal-to-liquid (CTL) plants, and not approving new coal fired power stations without carbon capture readiness."
CCS potential in South Africa
In an October 2007 Energy Research Centre analysis for the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism of options reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Energy Research Centre wrote that in the electricity generation sector "cleaner coal is the smallest of the three wedges. Given that super-critical is the default new coal option and IGCC is built extensively in GWC [the 'Growth without Constraints' scenario], relatively modest emission reductions are possible here. Carbon capture and storage provides greater potential, if the challenge in scaling up storage can be achieved – a challenge also faced by synfuels and its dilute and concentrated streams of CO2.
In the industrial sector, the Energy Research Centre identified the largest potential reductions being with CCS on new coal-to-liquid synfuel plants. "Compared to CCS on electricity generation, CCS from the synfuel process is attractive, in that roughly half the CO2 is in concentrated forms, avoiding most of the cost of capture. The key constraint is whether sufficient storage is available. Analysis so far has assumed 23 Mt CO2-eq per year from synfuels could be stored at most, which on its own is more than 20 times larger than the largest existing CCS project and ten times planned. With the limit, the mitigation potential is still large at 851 Mt CO2 –eq. over the period [to 2050]".
In a background research report, the Energy Research Center was cautious about the potential for CCS in South Africa. In particular, they noted that "South African geological conditions are not favourable for CCS, and thus a limit of 20 Mt CO2-eq per year was imposed on the model; in addition, in South African conditions, this is unproven technology. Storing higher amounts of CO2 per year would require a technological breakthrough. The streams of CO2 available for capture are large, although for power stations the costs of separating fairly dilute streams of CO2 from other gases make it more expensive that CCS from synfuels."
The Energy Research Center adopted a CCS cost of $50 per ton of Co2 equivalent of which it estimated $45 would be for capture, "with the rest for transport ($4), geological storage ($4) and monitoring and verification ($0.2)."
In March 2009 the South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage was launched with financial support from Anglo Coal, Eskom, Exxaro, Sasol, Schlumberger and Xstrata Coal. Aside from the mining, power generation and other private operators mentioned above, the project involves the South African National Energy Research Institute (SANERI), a subsidiary of CEF (Pty) Ltd. CEF is a joint venture of the Departments of Science & Technology (DST) and Minerals & Energy (DME).
A media release announcing the launch of the centre stated that "the success of CCS in South Africa will ultimately depend on the degree of confidence the scientific community has in the country’s potential for carbon dioxide storage. This, in turn, will hinge on the development of the human capacity needed to truly understand the risks and opportunities of CCS. In order to develop both this required human and technical capacity, a number of national and international stakeholders identified the need to establish and support a national CCS research centre. The centre is a Private/International/Public Partnership and financed from local industry, government and international sources. The ultimate goal of the research centre is to demonstrate this technology in South Africa by means of a carbon dioxide injection experiment and ultimately a demonstration plant by 2020." 
Articles and resources
- "Media Statement By Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism", Media Statement, July 28, 2008.
- Energy Research Centre, "Long Term Mitigation Scenarios: Technical Summary", Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism, South Africa, October 2007.
- Alison Hughes, Mary Haw, Harald Winkler, Andrew Marquard, Bruno Merven (Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town), Energy Emissions: A modelling input into the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios process, Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism, South Africa, October 2007, page 76.
- "Establishment of a South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)", Media Release, March 27, 2009.