Organised by Tiratsoo Technical, a division of Great Southern Press, and Houston-based Clarion Technical Conferences, and held in conjunction with Newcastle University, the Forum set out to address the ample technical, scientific, regulatory and social issues pertaining to the transportation of impure CO2 by pipeline during the increasingly critical process of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Short course

This year, the Forum was preceded by a two-day short course that focused on the pipeline transportation of CO2 containing impurities. The course covered the entire spectrum of technical issues and requirements for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and risk and integrity assessment of pipelines for this purpose.

Presented by experts Dr Mo Mohitpour and Brian Rothwell, the course proved popular among industry professionals, serving as the perfect foray into the topic for the majority of attendees who stayed on later to participate in the conference.

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Professor Shawn Kenny from Memorial University, Canada said “The course met my goals and expectations. A thank you to the presenters for such a difficult task,” and similar very-positive comments were received from many other delegates.

Carbon dioxide is a combustion by-product of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal) that are used for electricity production, transportation, heating and industrial applications. It is also released when solid waste, wood, and wood particles or products are burned, and is widely considered an important ‘anthropogenic’ (i.e. man-made) greenhouse gas. CCS is a process for reducing such greenhouse-gas emissions by extracting CO2 from effluent flue stacks, and transporting it for storage purposes and sequestration. Pipelines are the safest and the most efficient means of transporting such an anthropogenic gas; as well as sequestration, the gas can be used under certain circumstances for injection and enhanced oil recovery, or for natural gas storage cushioning.

In the past four decades, CO2 transportation has been focused on gathering, processing, pipeline transportation and the injection of relatively pure CO2 (from naturally occurring sources) into depleted gas and oil storage and fields. CO2 from such sources generally does not contain impurities that are incompatible with the reservoir conditions. However, the CO2 streams that are generally available from flue stacks are contaminated by other effluent gases such as hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), oxygen (O2), and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur that can be described as NOx and SOx. Gathering from industrial processes and locations, and transportation by pipeline for subsequent use or sequestration, will require different treatment of the CO2 than for CO2 obtained from naturally occurring sources.

The wide-ranging content of the course was based on the recent book on the subject which the two presenters have co-authored with Dr Patricia Seevam, Kamal Botros, and Claire Ennis, and reviews the entire spectrum of design and operating requirements for pipelines and network facilities that would be needed to transport carbon dioxide containing impurities safely, and without adverse impact on people and the environment.

The Forum

The Forum kicked off on Wednesday morning with an introduction from Dr Julia Race of Newcastle University. In her address to the 100-strong audience of pipeline engineers, designers, regulators, health and safety inspectors, and environmental specialists, Dr Race welcomed everyone on behalf of the University, and set the scene for the event by pointing out that in the UK there is already significant activity in CCS. There are both planned and pilot plants under way, and it is hoped that by at least 2016 there will be an operational CCS unit.

To this end, Dr Race said that the UK Government has recently announced its intent to invest £1 billion ($US1.5 billion) of capital funding and additional support in a competition for a project that will demonstrate the full CCS chain with the capture facility in the UK and storage offshore. In addition, the UK government has also announced £125 million ($US195 million) funding for research and development (R&D) in CCS, including a new £13 million ($US 20.3 million) UK CCS Research Centre, through the Research Councils. Later in the Forum, Professor Jon Gibbins, the principal investigator for this new Centre, outlined the role of the Centre in CCS and transportation research in the UK.

Dr Race continued by saying that many of the UK’s current CCS activities are concentrated in the north east of England: there is a pilot capture plant at Ferrybridge, and proposed projects at Eston Grange, Killingholme, Don Valley, and Drax. Dr Race pointed out that some of the participants in these projects were at the Forum, and she hoped that the discussions would benefit from their experiences. She finished by saying that the Drax project holds a personal interest for her, as she was part of the group of apprentices who did the commissioning tests on the turbines at Drax, around 40 years ago. In 2010, the 25 tonne 660 MW turbine was moved to a museum in Newcastle, and is believed to be the first of its size to go on display anywhere in the world.

Following on was a comprehensive programme that included 28 presentations from a range of world-acclaimed researchers and academics, government representatives, pipeline operators and consulting engineers. A notable mention must be given to National Grid, the UK’s largest pipeline operator, who presented or sponsored a number of papers covering the extensive research into the transportation of anthropogenic CO2 in which the company is currently investing.

National Grid’s £8 million ($US 12.5 million) CO2 Liquid pipeline TRANSportation (COOLTRANS) research programme has been designed to address and resolve the key issues relating to the safe routeing, design, and construction of onshore pipelines for the transportation of anthropogenic, high-pressure, dense-phase, CO2. The programme has brought together major technical capabilities in academic and industry organisations in the UK, and is co-ordinating research studies carried out by these organisations in order to provide a fast track for the identification and application of key learning to pipeline projects. An overview of the COOLTRANS research programme was given at the 2011 Forum, which explained the integrated analysis strategy combining state-of-the art numerical modelling of pipeline decompression, near- and far-field-dispersion studies being conducted by three university groups, and the use of full-scale experimental tests carried out at GL Noble Denton’s Spadeadam test site.

The COOLTRANS programme is now over half complete, and has generated significant knowledge from the results of the advanced analyses and the large-scale experiments. Russell Cooper of National Grid gave a wide-ranging overview and provided a detailed description of the programme, and its strategy, organisation and progress. In his paper, Mr Cooper described the extensive experimental programme and the programme of case studies which have been designed to confirm that the independently conducted theoretical studies can be efficiently integrated to allow validation by experimental data. The paper went on to outline the key learning obtained to date from the research programme and the application of this to pipeline project studies, and ended with a discussion of the challenges posed by the transport of dense-phase CO2 by pipeline compared with the conventional design of pipelines to transport natural or rich gas, or hydrocarbon liquids.

The following morning it was back into it with three papers on the subject of CO2 properties and specification, which is a critical issue because the design of an anthropogenic-CO2 pipeline will depend very precisely on the types and levels of impurities in the mixture.

Other topics discussed on the second day included corrosion in CO2 pipelines (Arne Dugstad’s paper on ‘what do we know and what do we need to know?’ was particularly apposite), risk assessment and routeing, and dispersion modelling and environmental impact. As well as Russell Cooper’s, the seven papers at the Forum describing various aspects of the COOLTRANS research included those presented by Dr Race; Dr Andrew Cosham of Atkins; Dr Phil Cleaver and Harry Hopkins of GL Noble Denton and HH Risk, respectively; Dr Simon Gant of the Health & Safety Laboratory; Dr Janice Lake of Nottingham University; and Daniel Sandana of Macaw Engineering. These are being published in full in a special September issue of the Journal of Pipeline Engineering this month.

A CO2 network

At the close of day one, and in keeping with the tradition of the previous two Forums, delegates gathered at Newcastle’s Quayside to unwind and network over some food and drinks on board the MV Fortuna as it sailed along the River Tyne. With the weather behaving itself, guests were treated to a rare opportunity to take in Newcastle’s historic riverside scenery, this year complete with an Olympic rings display on the Tyne Bridge. Organised by the Professional Institute of Pipeline Engineers (PIPE), the setting offered the ideal space for attendees to network and discuss the proceedings of the day, as well as relax and socialise amongst good company.

Further networking opportunities were made available throughout the conference during coffee and lunch breaks when delegates were able to chat and exchange business cards as well as peruse the intimate exhibition space. On show were products and services from National Grid, Newcastle University, Pipelines International and PIPE.

With participants from UK, Europe, Canada, and as far afield as Malaysia, Brazil, South Korea, and Australia, it is increasingly clear that the subject of CO2 pipelines is of worldwide concern and, with the continued expansion and government focus on CCS for the mitigation of climate change, it must not be ignored. As the world’s only meeting focused on CO2 pipelines, the Forum is proving to be the one-stop annual event for those professionals engaged in the industry and those who wish to know more about the subject and the expanding technology of transportation for CCS.