In an interview, Atanu Mukherjee, President, MN Dastur& Company believes that India need to have a multi-pronged approach to the abatement of greenhouse gases in India, while not compromising on economic growth.
MN Dastur has tied up with the US Government's Carbon Capture Centre. What is the bigger picture behind this tie-up?
The US Department of Energy (DoE) and its National Carbon Capture Centre (NCCC) will be working with Dastur for advancing the adoption, use, and research of commercial-scale coal gasification and carbon capture storage, and utilisation technologies in India. The NCCC is a US DoE-sponsored research facility, focused on finding breakthroughs in next-generation carbon capture technologies. Along with Dastur, NCCC envisions to accelerate the participation of institutions attached to the Government of India and the Indian private and state enterprises in the development and commercialisation of technologies to reduce greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-based industries by capturing the CO2 from the emissions. NCCC will offer knowledge-sharing by its world-class neutral test centre for advancing carbon capture technologies relevant to Indian context, which could be implemented by private and state enterprises in India.
Eventually, this would enable economically-attractive hyper-scale coal gasification based on low-grade Indian coals, along with carbon capture that can have a transformational impact on the Indian economy. This would enable large-scale, economically viable clean coal-based industries like methanol, steel, chemicals, cement, fertiliser, and power. Dastur will work with DoE and NCCC on technology scaling, economic viability, investment enablement, policy advocacy, and strategic and operational designs, both at the government and enterprise levels.
This will address the growing need to have a multi-pronged approach to abatement of greenhouse gases in India, while not compromising on economic growth.
What is the Dastur Innovation Lab all about (Is it the tie-up with the US entity)? And, what role does it aim to play in the power industry? When was it set up, and what are the recent developments and innovation trends here?
Dastur Innovation Labs (DIL), set up in 2017, is a pioneering initiative by an India-based consulting firm to advance the state-of-art the metals and energy sector. It is unique, in that, it brings together the expertise and resources of mature industrial research laboratories based in Toronto, along with practitioners and research capabilities of India, to solve problems and advance capabilities of the Indian energy and metals industry. DIL is in a partnership with University of Toronto, which has a long history of innovation and successful industry-based research. It has a mature industry-academia collaboration model, which can be structured around incentives that drive commercial deployment and success.
DIL's work in advanced materials is applicable in the design of superalloys required for boiler tubing of ultra-super, critical, and advanced ultra-super critical technology, which can withstand high throttle temperature and/or throttle pressure. These advanced superalloys can also be designed to withstand extreme stress in blades and vanes of future hydrogen IGCC turbines.
What kind of innovations are needed to boost the power industry in India?
Today, the power industry has to address the needs of efficiency in generation, distribution, coal logistics, fuelquality, carbon abatement, and in operations. Generation efficiency can be improved by adopting High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) technology like super-critical, advanced/ultra-supercritical, and potential IGCC technologies. Opportunities also exist for adopting oxy-combustion technologies like TROC and Allam power cycle for both increased efficiency and reduced CO2, when they become economically viable and scalable. Rail logistics is one of the biggest problems in coal transport. Coal slurry pipelines along with coastal transport can complement and ease rail.
Similarly, our grid needs to be re-engineered for accommodating renewables and increasing pan-India distributional efficiency. On the raw materials side, coal blend models can substantially improve fuel efficiencies. On the operations side, digital power plant models, coal blend optimisations, FGD and AI-based emission control models, sensor technologies, predictive maintenance models, and logistics models directly address productivity and output multipliers of energy systems. The latter is something that DIL can help in.
What is the current state of technologies being applied to fulfil India's commercial energy need via coal?
The current state of technologies that can help fulfil India's commercial energy needs has to do with the adoption of commercially-viable HELE technologies to replace our inefficient and carbon heavy sub-critical power plants. This will also lay the efficiency foundations for carbon capture technology for decarbonising the power industry.
How can carbon capture and storage be applied to help the coal and power industry?
Carbon capture can help decarbonise the power industry by absorbing the CO2 generated from power plants. However, carbon abatement strategy has to be based on a combination of carbon/energy efficiency measures, HELE routes, commercially viable IGCC technology, carbon capture, and renewables. There are two types of carbon capture - post combustion and pre-combustion. Post combustion carbon capture, which captures CO2 from the exit flue gas stack of power plants, is more expensive because of the diluted concentration of CO2 in the stream, which requires compression and chemical absorption, raising the cost.
Today, post combustion carbon capture in power is expensive at about $50û$100/tonne. However, the flip side is that given many implementations and scale, that would likely drop to less than $25/tonne over time. At the same time, the captured CO2 could be sold as products, such as for enhanced oil recovery, where costs to the tune of $15û40/tonne of CO2 can be recovered.
A country like India can take advantage of its very large, low rank coal reserves to have coal gasification-based pre-combustion carbon capture at economic cost points of about $30/tonne today, to potentially run IGCC power plants. Apart from overcoming the techno-economic challenges in deploying IGCC plants, any carbon capture mechanism will initially require policy support in terms of a carbon credit and financing mechanism, such as the 45Q in the US. Contrary to popular belief, our models show that over time an appropriately-designed carbon credit mechanism can be deficit neutral, and it would be offset by the additional taxes collected on the economy-wide valuemultipliers created through clean and 24x7 power. So, it is a combination of different approaches along with carbon captureand well thought-out policies, which will help apply carbon capture storage and use, while marginally affecting the growth or aggregate cost structures.
How mature is the CCS technology? Could you tell us about the application and success of CCS in other parts of the globe?
The different components of CCS technology are sufficiently mature. The physical and chemical absorption mechanisms like Selexsol, Rectisol, and amine have been around for over 50 year. They have been successfully used as absorbents in the chemical processing industries for many decades. There is also continuing research at NCCC on more effective and cost-efficient solvents, absorbers, and regenerators for augmenting the carbon capture technologies. Absorption, stripping, compression, cooling, and piped liquefied CO2 transportation systems are pretty much standard engineering though.
Similarly, we have to be cognizant of the engineering and scale challenges of implementing geological storage systems in CCUS. That said, this is not the first time that we have done such drilling and engineering - the oil and gas industry has done this before on a much larger scale. If we combine use with storage and apply that to only a percentage of the static industrial emitters, we are talking of much more modest storage requirements and hence much more manageable scale challenges for CO2 storage engineering.
There several commercially successful carbon capture storage and use applications running in different parts of the world. Emirates Steel has successfully implemented post-combustion carbon capture that captures over 800,000 tonne of CO2 per year from iron and steel production, which is then used by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for Enhanced Oil Recovery. Statoil Norway's Sleipner project was the world's first commercial CO2 capture and storage project based on pre-combustion carbon capture from hydrocarbons. Statoil hascaptured and stored over 20 million tonne of CO2 for over two decades without incidence. In the fall of 2014, Saskwan Power's Boundary Dam Power Station in Canada became the first thermal power generating station in the world to commercially use post-combustion Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology which captures 1 million tonne of CO2 per year at a 90 per cent capture rate. The world's largest commercial scale, post-combustion carbon capture is NRG Energy's Petra Nova power plant near Houston, TX which can capture upto 1.6 million tonne of CO2 per year. The captured CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery in the nearby oilfields and carbon dioxide sale revenues for oil recovery pay for the entire project.
What is the market potential for carbon capture technology? What is DIL working on? And, how ready is India in adopting this technology?
The primary market potential for carbon dioxide from carbon capture in India would be in the area of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) from our depleting and ageing oil fields. If done right, captured carbon dioxide-based EOR can increase India's oil production by over 30 per cent, resulting in excess production from the old oil fields. Captured CO2 can also be converted into soda ash, a chemical compound that is commonly used in glassmaking. Tuticorin Alkali and Chemicals in Chennai is doing exactly that with technology from Carbon Clean Solutions, an Indian company based out of UK, which allows it to capture CO2, albeit at a much smaller scale of 60,000 tonne per year.
A growing industrial economy like India, has the opportunity to engineer integrated gasification and carbon capture-based power, chemicals, fertilisers, steel, and other related industries from ground up. Rather than retrofitting old power plants with carbon capture at elevated capital and operating costs, new HELE plants and future IGCC plants based on coal gasification and carbon capture are much more feasible and economically viable with the right policy credits. Policy design for allocations, investments, and generation credits needs to be designed so that the economic model for gasification and capture-based power plants is viable and scalable in the longer run.
What are the challenges in the adoption of CCS, especially among India's top three carbon-intensive sectors?
The challenges are three-fold. First, it has to do with the understanding and implementation of carbon capture technology and its applicability in the Indian context of power, steel, petrochemical, and cement industry, which are the primary industrial carbon emitters. Second, we have to improve our understanding of the carbon storage requirements and the availability of carbon in the Indian basins. Preliminary studies have indicated sufficient availability, but storage needs to be understood from an engineering, implementation, and cost perspective. Third, we must have appropriate policy design for carbon capture credits. Otherwise, initially, it would be difficult to implement carbon capture at competitive cost structures. Carbon capture credits enable incentivised investments in carbon capture, which then facilitate the progressive reduction of capture costs and also help establish markets for carbon products and carbon emission trade.
What are the future plans of DIL? How much capital has it set aside for its innovative research and plans for the future?
The vision of DIL is to be a worldwide industrial innovation engine for metals, energy, and mining industries, by harnessing and integrating people and resources across the globe. DIL, Toronto is the nucleation point for such an endeavour. We have structured DIL in such a way that funding for growth is driven by commercial success, thus keeping seed funding requirements modest.
- RAHUL KAMAT