Abu Dhabi has started up the world’s first fully commercial carbon-capture steel project, a milestone for the industry that also is the largest to inject CO2, or carbon dioxide, into oil reservoirs to enhance output.
The Al Reyadah project, which has been in the works for four years, is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) and Masdar, the renewable energy arm of Mubadala Development, the emirate’s strategic industrial investment fund.
It is also sponsored by Emirates Steel Industries (ESI), whose two Abu Dhabi plants will have a net zero carbon footprint once the project is fully operational.
“This project has been under study for a very long time and now it is a reality,” said Suhail Al Mazrouei, the UAE Energy Minister.
“When it is fully operational it will remove CO2 equivalent to taking more than 170,000 cars off the roads,” while also improving both oil and gas output to meet national objectives, the minister said.
The oil, gas and coal industries, as well as industries that are heavy energy consumers and big C02 emitters, have been pursuing carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCUS)technology for well over a decade and bodies such as the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change and the International Energy Agency have pointed to the technology as vital to meet targets to reduce CO2 emissions to curb man-made climate change.
While the Al Reyadah project is one of 15 large-scale projects worldwide, according to The Global CCS Institute, a number of projects have gone by the wayside because their sponsors said they were not economically feasible.
The Abu Dhabi project was able to overcome this because of a number of unique features, such as the proximity and favourable geology of the oilfields, as well as the concerted support of its shareholders, Emirates Steel and the Abu Dhabi Government.
“This project will allow for the more productive use of a valuable commodity, natural gas, whether for power generation, or as petrochemicals feedstock, or for export,” said Sultan Al Jaber, the Minister of State and the chief executive of Adnoc, which owns 51 per cent of Al Reyadah.
“It also unlocks another potential revenue stream in the industrial sector, encouraging the wider application of commercially viable CCUS technologies globally,” he added.
The plant is located in the Mussafah industrial area on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi city, between the two main ESI plants. Saeed Al Romaithi, the chief executive of ESI, said the project will take out 800,000 tonnes of annual CO2 emissions and is the first iron and steel project of its kind in the world, ahead of pilot projects in China and Taiwan.
The US$122 million project includes the world’s largest high-pressure compressor unit, which will take a total of 41 million standard square feet per day of dry CO2 from the two plants, compress it into a state where it acts like a liquid, the run it 43 kilometres via pipeline to the Rumaitha and BAB oilfields in Abu Dhabi’s main onshore oilfield concession, said Paul Crooks, the project manager.
“We are taking CO2 from Emirates Steel and injecting it on a commercial basis into our reservoirs – there is a huge difference between injecting it to dispose of it and injecting it for EOR, or enhanced oil recovery,” Mr Al Mazrouei said. “It is in the pilot phase now but the initial reaction in the reservoirs is positive and we are hoping we can expand this project.”
The project has reached about half its capacity in the past two weeks and that may rise further depending on Adnoc’s requirements.
So how has it been able to be commercial when other projects have failed?
“You create value by liberating natural gas which is currently being ijnected for enhanced oil recovery, so you have gas that can be freed up for the economy,” said Bader Saeed Al Lamki, the executive director in charge of clean energy technolgoies at Masdar. “Also, you are able to extract more oil and ultimately it is a closed loop so the CO2 is trapped there, so it is a value proposition.”
The ratio of CO2 injected to natural gas freed up for other purposes is 1:1.5, Mr Al Lamki said.
Clean energy technology is a plank of the Government’s economy transformation strategy and over the past decade Masdar has invested $2.7 billion in the development of renewable energy and clean technologies in the Mena region and international markets, said Mohamed Al Ramahi, the Masdar chief executive.