Lasse Sander Tobiasen

August 24, 2023

6 tips on de-risking carbon capture project development at your cement plant

While carbon capture presents a light of hope, its widespread adoption is challenged by significant costs as well as various technical and commercial risks that need to be aptly managed. Project developers must follow well-tested project delivery models and manage project risks to successfully deliver a carbon capture project.

Cement production, plant for burning cement mix. Shooting from the air.
Based on our experience from more than 100 successfully completed assignments within carbon capture, we have gathered six tips on de-risking carbon capture project development at your cement plant.
Be proactive in assessing the core carbon capture technology
The choice and assessment of the core capture technology plays a central role in the successful deployment of carbon capture projects. As innovative emerging technologies enter the market, their implementation involves intricate technological, economic, and environmental complexities that must be assessed and compared with thoroughly tested technologies.
An early-stage proactive approach in assessing your core carbon capture technology can help you:
  • Identify technological limitations, potential operational challenges, and environmental impacts before they escalate into costly setbacks
  • Take informed decisions
  • Allocate resources efficiently
  • Design strategies that ensure long-term viability
  • Boost investor confidence
Optimise energy usage when integrating carbon capture technologies
The integration of carbon capture technologies within the energy infrastructure of your cement plant can lead to a diversified and more resilient energy portfolio. This diversification can act as a buffer against energy price fluctuations and supply disruptions, reducing the exposure of the project to energy-related risks. Additionally, by staying ahead of increasingly stringent environmental regulations and emissions standards, the project becomes less susceptible to regulatory hurdles and compliance-related issues.
Energy optimisation includes assessment of waste heat recovery such as district heat through heat pumps, and reduction of energy usage in the capture process itself. Determining the most financially attractive heat recovery and energy integration solution depends on the specific technical configuration of each cement plant, and financial drivers like future projected cost of energy, cost of capital, and requirements for the return on investment. Also, consider a project specific assessment of utilities, including access to sewer/raw water, electricity infrastructure, and access to a district heating network.
Overall, energy optimisation and integration can help you:
  • Minimise energy waste
  • Reduce environmental footprint
  • Reduce operational costs
  • Demonstrate commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices
  • Enhance relationship with investors
Be aware of the environmental constraints and plan carefully
While carbon capture plants follow a typical planning and permitting pathway, there are certain elements that are particular to this technology. Concentrated CO2 is new for most cement plants, and it is important to understand the process and health related risks. For instance, documenting the best and safest physical intermediate on-site storage of liquified pressurized CO2 may require dedicated risk assessments, or even a computational fluid dynamic modelling of worst-case scenario to determine if mitigations are needed or to document the risks to authorities and internal stakeholders.
Additionally, air-borne pollutants will be impacted partly due to a smaller volume flow of flue gas once CO2 is removed (therefore affecting flue gas dispersion), and partly due to the risk of new pollutants that must be managed, for example degradation products of amines, like nitrosamines, which may be a focus point for the environmental authorities.
Air dispersion modelling is helpful at an early stage in the project to determine if re-use of existing stack(s) is viable, or alternatively clarify options and constraints for a new stack or point source of emission. Later in the project development it will be important to obtain clear direction from authorities relating to emission monitoring requirements and limits in the cleaned flue gas. Note that different countries may have different requirements.
Emission limit values of pollutants from cement plants may be strengthened in the future (like NOx and SOx), and the carbon capture flue gas integration must therefore consider possible requirements for future abatement technology.
Finally, the planning and permitting activities must take place prior to final investment decision to avoid the risk of additional environmental requirements (and cost overruns or delays) during project execution.
Consider solvent health management systems
Solvent health management systems are another essential component in carbon capture processes, particularly in cement plants where flue gas often contains impurities. By implementing additional steps to clean the flue gas before it enters the capture plant, the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the carbon capture system can potentially be improved. The removal of particulates, dust, and other contaminants not only enhances the performance of the solvent but also reduces potential damage and wear on the equipment, leading to improved operational reliability.
Maintain the business case and project implementation closely intertwined
Implementing carbon capture at cement plants relies on a robust business case. A carbon capture project is a capital-intensive infrastructure project, with revenue streams depending on external factors such as the future value of CO2, the regulatory setting, investment cost, as well as the impact on existing operational costs and staffing. There are three major aspects that play a key role when developing the business case:
  • The capture technology and its integration with the existing assets as well as the associated investment and operational costs
  • The proximity to storage (or utilisation) alternatives and the associated market drivers including transportation options and costs. Transport and storage costs are a very large part of overall OPEX costs for the whole capture project value chain and commercial arrangements with storage providers are needed before a final investment decision can be made
  • Options for financing, often through a split between balance sheet equity, project finance and grant funding
But a robust business case doesn’t stand alone, it needs a well-structured project development process that can bring the technical and operational aspects to life, including risk assessment, stakeholder engagement, implementation, and evaluation. A good project model:
  • Guides you through all project stages from feasibility, outline design, basic design to financial close and commercial operation
  • Ensures that key stakeholders are informed on development costs and risks to be able to make go/no go decisions
  • Follows a solid time schedule
Have a procurement strategy in place
Procurement plays an important role in de-risking carbon capture project development at cement plants. For some projects paid pre-engineering by market actors such as EPC or technology providers is required to commercially de-risk the project while keeping a competitive environment. For other projects it may be more suitable with a partnering approach, for instance if grant funding deadlines require fast-track project delivery.
The procurement strategy must also consider how many packages will the project consist of. For instance, are you able and willing to self-deliver in larger packages to cut costs, for example procure your own CO2 storage tanks, balance of plant, jetty infrastructure, civil infrastructure or will your project financials require de-risking to a degree where a fixed price/turn-key contractor is needed, as well as a long-term operation and maintenance contract for operating the capture plant.

Want to know more?

  • Lasse Sander Tobiasen

    Chief Consultant

    +45 51 61 09 93