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NETL Energy Analysis Experts Work to Improve Understanding of Carbon Capture Costs

NETL researchers, in partnership with industrial research institutes, universities and other organizations, co-authored a newly released comprehensive white paper providing updated costing guidelines for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which are crucial to combatting climate change. Understanding the costs of these technologies is essential to guide research activities aiming to reduce cost and improve performance in different applications. 

“In practice, the many different CCS technology options and potential CO2 sources pose challenges in establishing reliable and transparent cost estimates,” said NETL researcher and co-author of the white paper Tim Fout. “These new guidelines aim to enable more realistic and comparable assessments of economic potential and give new insights regarding the timeframe and requirements for cost competitiveness with existing or advanced technologies.”

Fout and fellow NETL researchers Michael Matuszewski and Joshua Morgan assisted in the preparation of the white paper, titled, “Towards improved guidelines for cost evaluation of carbon capture and storage,” along with researchers from SINTEF Energy Research (Simon Roussanaly, lead), Carnegie Mellon University, Heriot-Watt University, the Electric Power Research Institute, the International Energy Agency, IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University of Calgary, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Delft University of Technology. 

This global collaborative effort stems from previous work by a group of experts from industry, government, academia and other organizations who came together in 2011 to form the CCS Cost Network, which then led to the formation of a task force to focus on the basic structure of CCS costs. The group published their first white paper, “Toward a Common Method of Cost Estimation for CCS at Fossil Fuel Power Plants,” in 2013. The document laid the foundation for establishing a common costing methodology that aimed to avoid pitfalls the group identified in existing CCS cost evaluations for fossil fuel power plants arising from the different methodologies used by various organizations.

Fout explained that after the initial white paper was published, the team continued to work on important cost issues. The new white paper serves as a comprehensive effort to provide a complementary set of CCS costing guidelines in three areas where further guidelines and better practices are needed. These areas include:

  • Improved cost guidelines for advanced low-carbon technologies.
  • Improved cost evaluation of carbon capture and storage from industry.
  • Improved guidelines for uncertainty analysis of carbon capture and storage techno-economic studies.

“Each of these areas represents unique opportunities to address aspects of costing that are often overlooked or insufficiently addressed,” Fout said.

For example, advanced low-carbon technologies, such as a new carbon capture process or novel power plant design, are often are considered as though they are mature for the purposes of techno-economic assessment. The team addressed this shortcoming by developing a framework for developing nth-of-a-kind (i.e., later iterations of a technology or design) costs of these early pre-commercial technologies. 

Similarly, the team’s proposed guidelines for costing CCS from non-power industries, such as cement plants and steel mills, recommend better inclusion of cost metrics, energy supply aspects, retrofitting costs, maturity of the capture technology and CO2 transport and storage cost, which are are not always properly considered. 

The team also tackled quality assurance and uncertainty evaluations of data and models used in CCS cost analysis by devising a comprehensive overview document of uncertainty analysis methods and approaches for the techno-economic analysis community, as well as guidance for their selection and use. 

“This white paper represents a significant step in developing commonality in CCS costing methods that is already gaining traction, with more than 500 downloads in the first week,” Fout said. “NETL is proud to be a part of this global collaboration, in which we get to bring the Lab’s extensive system engineering analysis expertise to bear on solving climate change.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory develops and commercializes advanced technologies that provide clean energy while safeguarding the environment. NETL’s work supports DOE’s mission to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy and environmental challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.