Understanding the basics

What is carbon capture and utilization or sequestration (CCUS)?

CCUS, also referred to as carbon capture and storage, is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) formed during power generation, like from a natural gas or industrial plant, and storing it underground so that it can’t enter the atmosphere.

The lifecycle of CCUS—how does it work?

Similar to introducing hydrogen to a plant, CCUS can be applied to both new and existing gas power plants, again avoiding lock-in of CO2 emissions for the life of the power plant. To capture the CO2, it can be extracted from power generation and industrial sites post-combustion, or even directly from the air—this is known as Direct Air Capture (DAC). Once it’s been captured, the CO2 is compressed and then transported either by ships or pipelines (the US has about 5,000 miles of CO2 pipelines today). Finally, the CO2 can be stored safely far underground—or, the CO2 can be re-used. The captured CO2 is generally reused to produce synthetic fuels, chemicals, and building materials. However, most of it is likely to be used for sequestration and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), because of the limited volume of CO2 demanded for utilization.

Can it be applied to existing assets?

Yes, post-combustion carbon capture can be installed on both new and existing CO2 producing assets. For example, let’s consider retrofitting existing plants.

The retrofit strategy helps de-risk future carbon regulations that impact the decision to build a gas-fired power plant today. Furthermore, retrofits can significantly extend the lifetime of operating assets, extending their economic viability and even deferring costly decommissioning expenses with forced retirements. Carbon capture retrofits are expected to account for 50 percent of all CO2 capture projects by 2050 (source: IEA, 2020 Sustainable Development Scenario)

However, it is important to note that not every asset will be considered a good candidate because of things like available land, access to geologic storage formations, and lack of policy to encourage its deployment.

Looking forward

Realizing its potential

One of the major barriers to people embracing carbon capture is the high cost of its technologies and deployment strategies. More funding of research and development (R&D) can help reduce costs, improve efficiency, and accelerate the deployment of hydrogen and carbon capture solutions—leading to a more reliable grid. Also, governments can help establish certain policies accelerate these decarbonization technologies’ potential.  

Frequently asked questions

Learn more about CCUS and GE’s capabilities

Technology

What is carbon capture utilization or sequestration (CCUS)?

CCUS is the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) formed at the emission source, like from a natural gas or industrial plant, transporting, storing—and even utilizing it. It can be reused for many industrial processes rather than just being stored.

The captured CO2 is generally reused and transformed to produce synthetic fuels, chemicals, and building materials. It can also be directly used for sequestration and enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

How does the capture technology work?

CO2 can be extracted from the flue gas produced during power generation and industrial processes during the post-combustion phase, or even directly from the air—this is known as Direct Air Capture (DAC).

Once it’s been captured, the CO2 is compressed and transported either by ships or pipelines. Finally, the CO2 can be stored safely far underground—or, the CO2 can be re-used. 

Storage, transportation and implementation

Once CO2 is captured, how can it be transported, and then stored?

CO2 is commonly transported in a gaseous state, and pipelines for this are already a part of the infrastructure in many countries today (the US alone has about 5,000 miles of CO2 pipelines). These pipelines can be connected to processing or power plants utilizing natural gas.

Once the CO2 is compressed to pressures above >1,057 PSI/72.9 atm at temperatures > 88 degrees Fahrenheit/31.1 degrees Celsius) it becomes almost as dense as water, takes up less space, and is easier to store underground.

The compressed CO2 is then injected into porous rock formations deep underground removing it from the atmosphere.

What are suitable storage conditions for the CO2?

There are several types of underground storage options available: 

  1. Deep saline formations that can be sealed by a caprock for permanent storage
  2. Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), which involves injecting CO2 to increase oil production from mature oil fields
  3. Depleted oil or gas fields that are no longer economic for oil or gas production, but have established trapping and storage characteristics.

Considering safety, how would a potential leak in the storage be managed?

There is a variety of mature monitoring technologies that have been successfully installed to monitor the subsurface, injection, wells, and any other potential leak points adding an additional level of security to the CCUS lifecycle. 

Which countries are currently taking the lead in advancing CCUS as a decarbonization technology and how are they doing it?

CCUS technology investment and favorable policies are increasing in many regions including North America, Australia, Japan, China and some European countries, with the UK and Norway leading the way.

These nations have taken steps to:

  1. Support policy and infrastructure changes
  2. Develop legal and regulatory frameworks 
  3. Detail and target storage assessments

Cost

Is CCUS a cost competitive decarbonization technology?

As global emissions prices soar, CCUS is the most competitive decarbonization technology today because it can achieve the greatest emissions reductions through realistic, timely and large-scale adoption

Capabilities

Does GE collaborate with partners on front-end engineering design (FEED) studies and post combustion carbon capture projects?

Yes! We partner with governments and customers to develop carbon capture projects. Here are some of our recent FEED studies below:

  1. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $5.7 Million for a GE-led carbon capture technology integration project targeting to achieve 95% reduction of carbon emissions. The project includes collaboration with Southern Company, Linde, BASF, and Kiewit. We will develop a FEED study with advanced technology and control concepts to integrate Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power’s James M. Barry Electric power plant with Linde’s Gen 2 carbon capture solution based on BASF’s OASE® blue gas treatment technology. This study will serve as a template for lowering carbon emissions for other 7F gas power plants worldwide
  2. Teesside Power is also relying on GE Gas Power and Technip Energies to develop a FEED study for a “first of a kind” large amine-based post combustion carbon capture at scale solution to integrate with a proposed H-Class natural gas fired power plant.  Following completion of the FEED study, BP will invite Technip Energies and GE Gas Power to bid for the EPC contract to construct the power station and carbon capture facility. We will provide proven expertise in natural gas combined cycle plant engineering, operability, and plant integration while Technip Energies will focus on carbon capture and compression plant using Shell’s Cansolv® carbon capture technology.

Can companies partner with GE on CCUS initiatives and projects?

GE has partnerships across the breadth of the carbon capture value chain to provide our customers with comprehensive end-to-end carbon capture solutions. If you’re interested in exploring carbon capture, let us know.

There are technical pathways for gas power to achieve a low or near-zero carbon generating footprint through the use of low and zero-carbon fuels—including hydrogen—as well as carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technologies.

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