Jacques Monne (Total). (photo KM)
Jacques Monne (Total). (photo KM)

Total(ly) integrated CCS-project

In Lacq, near Pau, in the south west of France, Total has set up a pilot project for carbon capture and storage. Speaking at Gas Week, Jacques Monne, project and CCS manager, estimates the technology has a potential to be applied in 7.000 industrial sites worldwide.

"It is suitable for coalfired power stations as well as for steel works, refineries and petrochemical plants," Monne says. Total is a player in both R&D and operational projects in this technology for over more than ten years. It is a partner 14 national and international CCS project. Amongst them the important Sleipner (started in 1996) and the Snøhvit (started in 2008) aquifer CO2 storages, both situated in Norwegian waters.

The Lacq plant is using a depleted underground gas reservoir for CO2 storage, by one injection well. Lacq obtained its permit for CCS in 2009. "We committed all stakeholders in the realization of the project. The earliest public meetings took place in 2007. The public dialogue was part of our transparency policy. This approach also included an information letter every quarter. We installed a dedicated hot line and a scientific advisory committee since 2007. There also is a close collaboration with national institutes and universities. Researchers from French universities are free to come to the Rousse storage facility for their research projects."

Transparency in communication with the stakeholders remains a permanent concern to be taken into account during the whole life of CCS experimentation and for the future industrial deployment of CCS. In the area, Total can rely on a large public acceptance. "We have been present here for about 60 years. We are exploiting the natural gas here since 1957. The Rousse well was chosen for injection, because it is a very well known site." In 2007, Total organised lots of public hearings, with possibility to give feedback. "We also installed an information centre and send about 8.000 letters about the project. One of the results of the stakeholders' feedback is that we put the compressors in a shelter, to prevent acoustic irritation."

Total is using the pilot plant to demonstrate the technical feasibility and reliability of an integrated onshore CCS scheme for steam production and to acquire operational experience and data. "The plant is located on an industrial site, above a 4.000 m deep natural gas reservoir. We use natural gas to produce electrical power with steam generators. Our goal is to upscale –with cost reduction the oxycombustion technology from pilot (30 MWth) to industrial scale (200 MWth)." We also want to develop geological storage qualification methodologies and on site monitoring methodologies, to prepare future larger scale long term onshore storage projects."

The decision to invest 60 million euro in the pilot project was taken end of 2006. The operational activitities started during the first days of July 2009. "In January 2010 we stored the first volumes of CO2 in the Rousse reservoir. Till July 2013 we aim to capture and trap 90.000 tonnes of CO2, a volume comparable to the emission of 30.000 cars during two years." The top of the reservoir is situated at a depth of 4.540 m.

The carbon dioxide is transported by an existing 27 km long gas tube from Lacq to Rousse. The injection area is constantly monitored. "We installed pressure, temperature and micro-seismic sensors, in order to calibrate pressure loose and reservoir models and to assess the impact of the injection near the wellbore." The micro-seismic equipment has been installed in seven shallow wells, one on the injection site and six in a 2 km radius circle around the injection well. Total is also using one seismometer to measure natural seismicity and to integrate the natural seismic activity in the calculations. "In case a magnitude higher than 3 should be measured, we immediately stop the injection. The system has been calibrated by real shots. Until now, from the beginning of the injection no significant event linked with injection has been detected. Total mainly detected natural seismic activity linked to the movements of the Iberic and Eurasian plates. It didn't see any significant impact on the near well bore nor any incidence on the reservoir integrity.

Monitoring program

Amongst the parameters that are monitored are CO2 and CH4 concentration and flux and the chemical and mineral content of four spring aquifers and some selected existing water wells that are in use to supply the citizens of Pau with drinking water. The monitoring program also includes the bio-indicators in five small rivers and an annual inventory of the flora of 33 representative ecosystem sites and several amphibians and insects species on 50 sites. Monitoring fauna and flora is a method to detect eventual leaks. "We didn't found a deviation from the baseline surveys, conducted in 2009." But the long term CO2 storage monitoring program economically and technically viable is still to be developed. Jacques Monne: "For CCS from combustion in power generation, current cost evaluations for industrial size capture unit are still high, even in the case of oxycombustion. We need more research and development before upscaling and streamlining CCS installations. 

Air Liquide

The CCS system is an integrated part of the plant that generates power for the other companies on the industrial site. "We closely work together with Air Liquide. This partner separates nitrogen and oxygen from the atmosphere. It commercialises the nitrogen and sends us the oxygen. So we can realise gas combustion with almost pure oxygen –there also remains some argon and other gasses for the atmosphere–, with means that no noxious NOx can be formed," Monne underlines.

Finally, in 2030, Total will be the first gas company to give back an injection well to the public. However, this doesn't mean the monitoring can be put to an end that time. Legally, Total will remain the owner of the stored CO2 gas until the end of this concession. This can become an issue in case a commercial application to use the stored CO2 should be developed.

By Koen Mortelmans

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