Norway backtracks on carbon capture

The Norwegian government has hit the brakes on its development of full-scale CO2-capture at Mongstad – citing technical challenges and financing issues linked to difficulties in the refining and carbon-trading markets.

Under a revised strategy, a new carbon capture and storage (CCS) programme is to help realise full-scale CCS projects in Norway. The government added that it would ensure the financial and other conditions to incentivise industry to develop at least one such project by 2020.

The risk connected with integrating a full-scale capture facility at the Mongstad facility was too high, explained Ola Borten Moe, Norway's minister of petroleum and energy. The project, he said, would be both challenging and costly, particularly due to difficulties in the refinery industry in north west Europe.

"We are at a crossroads, and have to consider if the full-scale CCS project should be continued at Mongstad" said Borten Moe. "The government has concluded to consider other possible projects that can be realised within 2020, as agreed in the bi-partisan Climate Agreement in the Norwegian Parliament."

The depressed market for carbon trading allowances and economic recession in most of Europe  also contributed to reduced commercial interest for CCS, added Norway's minister of environment Bård Vegar Solhjell.

Under the new programme, Norway will invest NOK400 million in the Mongstad Technology Centre (TCM) over four years. The country's CCS research programme Climit will also be increased by NOK100 million over two years.

Back in 2006, the Norwegian government and Statoil agreed on developing CCS technology at Mongstad in two stages: First, a technology centre (TCM), followed by the construction of a large scale plant at a later stage.

The large scale CCS project at Mongstad includes CO2 capture, transport and storage from the CHP plant at Mongstad. Captured CO2 was to be transported by pipeline for storage under the seabed in the North Sea.

TCM is claimed to be the only test centre to test two different types of technology applicable to emissions from both coal- and gas-fired power plants. The technologies to be tested during the first phase are based on chilled ammonia and amines.

The Centre has been constructed with a capture capacity of up to 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. It is owned by Gassnova (which manages Norway's state interests) (75.12%), Statoil (20%), Shell (2.44%) and Sasol (2.44%).


MAC alarm software for UK gas utility

A US-based natural gas distribution utility company has selected MAC Solutions’ ProcessVue software suite to manage and report on process alarms across its operation.

Initially, ProcessVue will interface with the unnamed company’s legacy control system, which is being upgraded over the next 12 months. The gas utility company provides natural gas services to more than 150,000 customers.
The contract was awarded to UCDS Inc. (User Centered Design Services), MAC's’ distribution partner for ProcessVue® in the US. It will manage meeting US regulatory requirements at the customer’s control room facilities, ensuring that the correct software and control systems are in place to support this.

The gas company’s existing alarm management software was written by one of its SCADA programmers. The software meets the criteria for PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) but couldn’t supply the reporting needs that the customer required, reported MAC.

The system could pull raw data and categorise this but lacked the proper analysis, report generation, automation and a means of transferring the actions taken back into the main SCADA database.

The MAC software is designed to provide prioritised information to plant operators, supervisors and managers about their processes and plant safety – using communication, data logging and reporting technologies. It can be used as a standalone application or to bring together multiple disparate systems onto one common platform.

Features are listed as including advanced KPI reporting based on EEMUA 191 guidelines; alarm rationalisation (locating ‘bad actors’ and ‘nuisance alarms’); sequence-of-event and real-time display in web browser; alarm system benchmarking; alarm and event analysis; and alarm and event archiving.

CropEnergies prepares for Ensus restart

Production is set to restart at the Ensus bioethanol plant under its new owners CropEnergies AG, which is investing £50 million to improve the competitiveness of its recently acquired Teesside operation.

"Currently, final cleaning and optimisation works are being carried out in order to commission the plant in Wilton," the Mannheim, Germany-based group said during the issue of its half-year results announcement.

The plant will be commissioned in autumn, but we have not given a specific date for the restart," a company spokesman said in a 25 Sept written statement.

For the six months to 31 Aug, CropEnergies increased revenues by 16% compared to the previous year to Euro372 million. The growth, it said, reflected an increase in bioethanol trading volumes as well as higher earnings for bioethanol and high protein food and animal feed products.

At Euro42 million, earnings (EBITDA) came in 21% lower than in the previous year due to higher raw material costs. Including one-off costs for flooding damages at its plant in Zeitz and the additional maintenance work the operating profit decreased by 30% to Euro26 million.

Looking ahead, CropEnergies is sticking by the growth target for a 10-20% rise in revenues  for the full financial year – due largely by the extra production and sales volumes from its new Ensus Ltd UK subsidiary. Its guidance for operating profit stayed unchanged between Euro40-50 milion, compared to Euro87 million the previous year.


UK minister comes round to fracking

There were probably some minor tremors at the UK's department of energy & climate change (DECC), as Edward Davey's put his head above the parapet to make the case for fracking.

In a speech to the Royal Society on 9 Sept, the green-leaning secretary of state admitted that shale gas could actually benefit the UK – increasing energy security, providing more jobs and tax revenues.

Davey backed up this view with the findings of a new report which estimates that the carbon footprint of UK produced shale gas would likely be significantly less than coal and also lower than imported LNG.

The report by DECC chief scientific advisor professor David Mackay FRS and Dr Timothy Stone, senior advisor to the secretary of state, concluded that the net effect on greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas production will be 'relatively small'.

“Gas, as the cleanest fossil fuel, is part of the answer to climate change, as a bridge in our transition to a green future, especially in our move away from coal," said Davey. “We have to face it: North Sea gas production is falling and we are become increasingly reliant on gas imports.

"So UK shale gas could increase our energy security by cutting those imports."

The minister went on to note how 'home-grown' gas, just like 'home-grown' renewables and new nuclear, also provides jobs for our people and tax revenues for our society.

He remarked: “Nobody can say, for sure, how much onshore UK shale gas resource exists or how much of it can be commercially extracted, so we can’t bank on shale gas to solve all our energy challenges, today or this decade.

“We must make sure that the rigorous regulation we are putting in place is followed to the letter, to protect the local environment. We must pursue vigorously the development and deployment of technologies that will reduce emissions to protect the planet.”

Pointing to recommendations concerning the need for new measures and techniques to reduce emissions from increased gas prduction, Davey said the report should reassure environmentalists, like himself, about the safely of shale gas production and its impact on the environment.

“Let me be clear – here at home we must not and will not allow shale gas production to compromise our focus on boosting renewables, nuclear and other low carbon technologies," he concluded.

“UK shale gas production must not be at the expense of our wider environmental aims – indeed, if done properly, it will support them. I am determined to make that happen.”


Yokogawa to consolidate control rooms at Japanese refinery

In Japan, Yokogawa Electric Corp. has received an order from JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp to execute the front end engineering design (FEED) for a project to consolidate the control rooms and systems at its Mizushima-A oil refinery.

JXE is working to ensure the safe and stable operations its refineries, in part by consolidating the control rooms to facilitate faster decision-making and improve efficiency by allowing the different refinery units to share more information.

According to Yokogawa, the consolidation of the control systems will also enable the refinery's various processing units to share more production data, thereby leading to more integrated operations and improved efficiency.

During the planning phase of this project, Yokogawa conducted a feasibility study of control systems.

Upon signing the contract, Yokogawa will prepare a master plan to introduce a Centum VP production control system that will integrate the monitoring and control functions for units throughout the refinery complex that are currently handled by multiple control systems.

This master plan will also address the introduction of a ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system to ensure the safety of processes throughout the refinery.

Yokogawa said it will also propose solutions to JXE such as software packages for remote monitoring and online diagnosis that improve maintenance efficiency, field wireless solutions.

These offerings can enable the installation of measuring instruments at previously difficult-to-install locations, advanced control rooms with designs that enhance operability and the visibility of data, and operator training systems.