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Environmental Solutions

Tackling Challenges in CCS with Automation Technologies

August 31, 2023

Author: Bik Sidhu

Today, Western Canada is on the cusp of a remarkable surge in investments to reduce carbon emissions, known as decarbonization. The region is gearing up for a significant expansion of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) projects. More than 25 large-scale CO₂ sequestration hubs are currently in development, along with plans for numerous carbon capture plants that will supply these hubs. This CCS infrastructure will be crucial if Canada is to achieve its Net Zero goals.

However, deploying such technology on a massive scale comes with its challenges, including significant technical and economic hurdles to overcome. To address these issues, recent policy updates, such as the CCS Investment Tax Credit, are helping to make projects more economically viable. The technical challenges will need an industry-wide convergence of innovation, proven approaches, and solutions but also transferable knowledge from other industries.

Key Challenges in CCS

Capital & Operational Costs
Workforce Availability
Stakeholder Safety Concerns
Regulatory Compliance
Integration with Operations
MMV along the CCS Network
CO₂ Quality Control & Measurement
Pre-Treatment of Contaminants
With challenges, come opportunities. By integrating automation and process control technology, along with adopting successful project execution and operational practices from various industries, we can create a clear path to minimize risks in the growth of CCS.

Here are a few examples of how this can be achieved:

The Best Integration is No Integration
By adopting Spartan's OnePlant strategy for the control system of the CCS technology, project execution will become simpler and more cost-effective. Essentially, the OnePlant control system will handle multiple crucial aspects of the CCS plant including the main process areas, CO₂ compressor, any auxiliary boiler, heat rejection, and Motor Control Centers (MCCs) on a single platform. This approach has already been successfully used on several projects spanning industries such as natural gas processing and petrochemicals.
Further savings are realized with time-tested Main Automation Contractor (MAC) approach, closely aligning process and automation engineering activities early in the project, resulting in even higher cost savings during project execution.

CarbonVue™: Operational Carbon Accounting & Verification

An often-overlooked risk in CCS project development is the importance of building a strong operational data foundation which will help track, validate, and report CO₂ data that is essential for generating carbon credits as well as claiming tax credits. Typically, project engineering focuses on the physical equipment and infrastructure required for safe and reliable operation of the CCS network. While the automation of the first-mile data capture is not considered until the operations stage. This can lead to an inefficient reporting process for tracking the CO₂ in the value chain, putting additional strain on the already limited labor pool.

Drawing parallels from production accounting, the CarbonVue operational carbon management approach helps reduce the regulatory reporting and validation risk, freeing up operations teams to focus on more productive tasks. This emphasizes the need for a "validation ready" approach right from the start of CCS projects. By doing so, we can ensure smoother operations and compliance with reporting requirements.
Track CO₂ from Capture to Sequestration

In most CCS networks, the CO₂ is compressed into a super-critical or dense phase for transport after it has been captured. Having it in this phase can create challenges in accurate and reliable measurement at the custody transfer points. Due to the severe fault potential of contaminants, the quality of the fluid also needs to be tightly controlled.

While these challenges may seem new to CCS, similar situations are commonly faced in the hydrocarbon industries. Effective application of proven measurement technologies like Coriolis meters and Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) analyzers can ensure reliable and low-maintenance operation of critical parts of the CCS network.
De-Risk CCS through Reliable and In-Depth Analysis of Flue Gas

Before diving deep into CCS project development, it's crucial for the proponent to undertake a critical step: characterizing the emissions source from which CO₂ will be removed and establishing the baseline atmospheric conditions at the injection site. If the CO₂ removal is to occur on post-combustion flue gas, the analysis of its contents can prove to be a challenge. Most CO₂ removal processes can be harmed by even trace amounts of items found in flue gas, so the characterization step is critical in designing an appropriate pre-treatment system. Furthermore, this analysis needs to be ongoing throughout the operation of the capture facility as conditions of the flue gas can vary due to facility operation.

Technologies such as Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) analyzers offer multiple, trace-level measurements of various flue gas contents in a compact package. This simplifies not only the initial characterization but also the continuous online measurement during operation.
Having the right technology is only part of the solution – a knowledgeable team, such as Spartan’s subsidiary Signet, which understands proper test methods and possesses the right equipment to accurately test flue gas at the stack. Reliable data collected by an experienced team becomes the basis for designing the capture facility effectively.
Ready Operations with Effective Training on CCS Digital Twins
In facilities planning to integrate a Carbon Capture plant, the existing operations teams will require extensive training on how to operate the new addition safely and efficiently. Since the Carbon Capture process is unique and different than most other industrial processes, effectively training the teams on various capture scenarios and failure modes can be challenging.

A similar situation was seen in Western Canada when coal-fired power generation facilities transitioned operations to gas-fired. Training of operations was seen as a critical step in planning of those major conversions. One tool that helped many of the facilities through that transition was the Operator Training Simulator (OTS). This simulator allows operators to run a virtual digital twin of the operating facility, experiencing different scenarios in an environment that mimics the actual plant. It enables simulations of failure modes, start-up, and shutdown scenarios, helping operators gain valuable experience before encountering these situations and enhancing their situational awareness. It’s important to remember that the OTS is best developed in parallel with the controls project scope for the Carbon Capture plant to ensure the simulator closely models the actual controls and becomes an effective tool for the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT).



The examples above demonstrate how the right combination of automation technology, expertise, and experience can effectively tackle the challenges that come with scaling CCS. At Spartan Controls, we've successfully implemented and tested these solutions in CCS and various other industries. We are dedicated to staying ahead of new challenges as the CCS industry grows and developing innovative solutions to overcome them. If you're facing a CCS challenge that needs to be addressed, don't hesitate to reach out to us today. We're here to help!

Learn more about Spartan's Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) capabilities.

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Business Development Director & CCS Industry Lead
Bik Sidhu
Business Development Director & CCS Industry Lead