Carbfix project – from gas to rock

About Carbfix project – from gas to rock

CarbFix is a collaborative research project between Reykjavik Energy, the University of Iceland, Columbia University and CNRS that aims at developing safe, simple and economical methods and technology for permanent CO2 mineral storage in basalts. The CarbFix team had demonstrated that over 95% of CO2 captured and injected at Hellisheidi geothermal Power Plant in Iceland was mineralized within two years. This contrasts the previous common view that mineralization in CCS projects takes hundreds to thousands of years. Industrial scale capture and injection have been ongoing at the power plant since 2012. This project has evoked reactions worldwide as global warming is dangerously approaching 2°C which is seen as having catastrophically consequences.

Why Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the number of extreme climate events. The Paris agreement from the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015 sets out a global action plan to limit global warming to bell below 2°C. The agreement is the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.

To reach this target, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050 and that carbon neutrality (zero emissions) needs to be reached by the end of the century at the latest. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has furthermore estimated that carbon capture and storage is vital if the world is to limit global temperature increase to 2°C.

CarbFix for future reduction of greenhouse gases

Reducing industrial CO2 emissions is considered one of the main challenges of this century. By capturing CO2 from variable sources and injecting it into suitable deep rock formations, the carbon released is returned back where it was extracted instead of freeing it to the atmosphere.  This technology might help to mitigate climate change as injecting CO2 at carefully selected geological sites with large potential storage capacity can be a long lasting and environmentally benign storage solution.

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Picture of Hellisheiði Power Plant. Photo: Arni Saeberg.

To address this challenge, the CarbFix project is designed to optimize industrial methods for storing CO2 in basaltic rocks through a combined program consisting of, field scale injection of CO2 charged waters into basaltic rocks, laboratory based experiments, study of natural analogues and state of the art geochemical modeling. A second and equally important goal of this research project is to generate the human capital and expertise to apply the advances made in this project in the future.

Details and results of this research program, including regular updates, can be found on this website https://www.or.is/english/carbfix-project/about-carbfix

The objectives and procedure behind Carbfix project

The main objective is to develop new method and technology for capturing CO2 and H2S emission and turn into rock, carbon and Sulfur fixation so to speak. Basalt plays key role in the mineralization process as it contains high amount of calcium, magnesium and iron and these chemicals interact with CO2 and H2S to form minerals. They form Calcite from CO2 and fools gold from H2S.

Picture of ‘fools gold’                                                          Picture of Calcite

The procedure is described as injecting the captured gas into the earth again, where they were originated. It involves separating CO2 and H2S from other gases in the scrubbing system. During scrubbing the gases CO2 and H2S are dissolved in water resulting in a type of mineral water. This water is then injected into basaltic host formation and the outcome is fools gold from CO2 and Calcite from H2S. The mineralization takes about 2 years and is stable for centuries or even millions of years.

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Picture of Core from injection site showing CO2 bearing carbonate minerals within basaltic host rock. Photo: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir

The method developed can be utilized wherever carbon dioxide is emitted in the vicinity of basaltic rock and water and sea. These conditions are widely found on the planet.

What are the goals of CarbFix?

CarbFix is aimed at developing new methods and technology for permanent CO2 mineral storage in basalts. This is done through a combined program consisting of:

  • field scale injection of CO2 charged waters into basaltic rocks
  • laboratory based experiments
  • study of natural analogues
  • geochemical modeling

A second and equally important goal of this research project is to generate the human capital and expertise to apply the advances made in this project in the future as mentioned above.

The worlds hottest borehole is nearly complete

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Icelands Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), was founded in 2000 by a consortium of three Icelandic energy companies, who are now drilling deep into the heart of a volcano in the south-west of Iceland. Iceland, sitting on the boundary between two major tectonic plates, is one of the most volcanically active places in the world. The project is located on the Reykjanes peninsula, where a volcano last erupted 700 years ago.

In a discussion with the BBC on 14th of December 2016, researchers reported that in the next couple of weeks they should reach a depth of 5km, where temperatures are expected to exceed 500C (932F). That is the deepest level of drilling so far in the world.

Asgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) in his interview with the BBC hopes that this will open new doors for the geothermal industry globally to step into an era of more production.

“That’s the aim – that’s the hope. We have never been this deep before, we have never been into rock this hot before, but we are optimistic.” Said Asgeir Margeirsson.

Harnessing this energy through geothermal technology is already well established in Iceland. In this area at Reykjanes, they typically drill to 2km or 3km depth to harness the steam, to run power plants and produce clean, renewable electricity as explained by Asgeir Margeirsson. They want to see if the resources go deeper than that.

The drilling has now reached nearly 4,500m, and the team expected it to hit its target depth of 5km by the end of the year 2016.

When the drill gets to 5km, the team expects to find molten rock mixed with water. But with the extreme heat and immense pressure found at this depth, the water becomes what is known as “supercritical steam”.

It is neither a liquid nor a gas, but it holds far more energy than either. It is this “supercritical” steam that the team wants to bring back up to the surface to convert into electricity.They believe its special properties mean it could produce up to 10 times as much energy as the steam from conventional geothermal wells. They don’t expect to drill into magma, but are drilling into hot rock which is around 400 to 500C.”

 

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Black basalt rock that has been collected from deep beneath the ground

Mr Margeirsson said that if this works, in the future they would need to drill fewer wells to produce the same amount of energy, meaning they would touch less surface, which means less environmental impact and hopefully lower costs.

“But that is if this works. This is full-scale research and development – we don’t know what the outcome will be.”  And there is a good reason to be cautious. With volcanoes, expect the unexpected.

Prof Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a volcanologist at the University of Iceland, reports that even though Iceland has more than 300 volcanoes, there is still much to learn about them. At the same time he states that this drilling project, however, would give geologists a unique vantage point to see the interior of a volcano.  He emphazises the importance of this project and the possible fundamental discoveries about how volcanoes work, learn about their properties and conditions.

The IDDP team says it is currently “drilling blind”, which means no rocky debris is coming back up to the surface. Instead, it is somehow being absorbed into the surrounding rocks.  Without being able to examine the rock, it means the geologists really are heading into the unknown.  However, with only a few hundred metres to go, they are optimistic that the world’s hottest borehole is now within their sights.

The IDDP project is funded by energy companies (HS Orka, Statoil, Landsvirkjun and Orkuveita Reykjavíkur), Orkustofnun (the National Energy Authority of Iceland), the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP), the National Science Foundation in the US and EU Horizon 2020.

Innovation Center Iceland holds its Industry Advisory Group meeting

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First regional IAG (Industry Advisory group) meeting was held in Iceland last week in Reykjavík. The formation of the group is to provide input and advice on the implementation of the GREBE project in Iceland.  The Group shall meet once a year in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and ICI in in charge of organizing the meetings.

On the meeting GREBE project was introduced and members circulated about the project relevance in Iceland and how it could affect their business. Members discussed opportunities in renewable energy and technology, and knowledge transfer between GREBE partners.  Next meeting will be held in 2017.

Iceland Regional industry advisory group.

Kristján Leósson from Innovation Center Iceland (www.nmi.is)

Sigurður Friðleifsson from Iceland Energy agency (www.orkusetur.is)

Viðar Helgason frá Iceland Geothermal (www.icelandgeothermal.is)

Salóme Guðmunsdóttir Start up energy Reykjavík   (www.startupenergyreykjavik.com)

Valur Rafn Halldórsson from the associations of municipalities on cold areas.  (skss.is)

Harpa Pétursdóttir chairman of The Association of Women in Energy (https://www.facebook.com/konuriorkumalum/?fref=ts)

Skírnir Sigurbjörnsson from Arctic Hydro (www.arctichydro.is)

Sæþór Ásgeirsson from Icewind (www.icewind.is)

A product that comes straight from the nature

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How do you differentiate your product from that of the competitors? Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir raised that question at Branding energy conference that was held in Reykjavík, Iceland in late September. Áslaug Thelma is head of marketing at Orka Náttúrunnar, state owned company, wholly owned by Orkuveita Reykjavíkur, the Reykjavík power company. Orka Nátturunnar was established to comply with Icelandic regulations regarding separating of competing and non-competing entities in the energy market. The company produces both electricity and hot water form geothermal resources.

Áslaug pointed out that one of the things that make the energy market unique is that the consumer isn´t necessary all that well aware of the product he´s paying for, “How do you differentiate a company like ours from other sellers when the product is something that consumer can’t see, and you´d rather not want him to touch?”

Early on, the company decided on a strategy that focuses on forward thinking and having a positive influence on both environment and the community. “in our marketing work we´ve emphasized that what we produce, both electricity and hot water, come straight from the nature, and is a part of the quality of life that we enjoy on this island. We want to send clear message about what kind of business we are, and let the “heart“ of the company shine through everything we do.”

It is in this spirit tha Orka Náttúrunnar has worked on developing new products and Áslaug points out that the company has, among other things, focused on building a network of charging stations electric cars. “When we started on the path there were hardly more than 50 electric cars in whole Iceland, but now I gather there are more than a thousand. We want to do our part to help with environmental friendly and forward-thinking transition in transport in Iceland and have been able to play a key role,” says Áslaug, but today Orka Náttúrunnar runs thirteen charging stations. It´s been very pleasant to see how fast thing have developed. There´s great interest in switching from fossil fuels to green energy and now we’re seeing more and more companies want to install charging stations both for their employees and for customers.”

aslaug

This interview was published in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið 19.09.2016

Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP)

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The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) is a long term study of high-temperature hydrothermal systems in Iceland. The IDDP is a collaborative effort by a consortium of three Icelandic power companies  (Hitaveita Sudurnesja (HS) (since 2008: HS Orka hf), Landsvirkjun (LV) and Orkuveita Reykjavíkur (OR)), and Orkustofnun (OS), the National Energy Authority of Iceland. and the Icelandic government, formed to determine if utilizing supercritical geothermal fluids would improve the economics of power productions from geothermal fields.

The IDDP expects to drill and test a series of boreholes that will penetrate supercritical zones believed to be present beneath three currently exploited geothermal fields in Iceland. One has been excecuted and the second will be activated in mid september 2016. A drilling to a depth of about 5 km will be required in order to reach hydrothermal fluids at temperatures ranging from 450°C to ~600°C.

A feasibility study completed in 2003 points at that in comparison to the output from conventional geothermal wells, which are 2.5 km deep, a ten-fold increase in power output per well could result if fluid is produced from reservoirs hotter than 450°C .

A typical 2.5 km-deep geothermal well in Iceland yields power to approximately 5 MWe. Assuming a similar volumetric inflow rate of steam, an IDDP well tapping a supercritical reservoir at temperatures above 450°C and at a pressure of 23-26 MPa may be expected to yield ~50 MWe.

The first IDDP drilling was performed in year 2009 in Krafla. The second drilling is scheduled mid september 2016 at the Reykjanes geothermal field. The aim is to drill 3 km deep. The drill Thor is powered by green energy produced by Reykjanes power plant.

The main benefits from deep geothermal drilling are as here below:

  • Increased power output per well, assumed by an order of magnitude, and production of higher-value, high-pressure, high-temperature steam.
  • Development of an environmentally benign, high-enthalpy energy source below currently producing geothermal fields.
  • Extended lifetime of the exploited geothermal reservoirs and power generation facilities.
  • Re-evaluation of the geothermal resource base.
  • Industrial, educational, and economic spin-off.
  • Knowledge of permeabilities within drillfields below 2 km depth.
  • Knowledge of heat transfer from magma to water.
  • Heat sweeping by injection of water into hot, deep wells.
  • Advances in research on ocean floor hydrothermal systems.

Summarized from the website iddp.is and nea.is

Innovation in the energy sector in Iceland

Þorsteinn Ingi Sigfússon, Professor in Physics, Laureate of the Global Energy Prize and Director of ICI (Innovation Center Iceland) wrote an article on research and Innovation in the energy sector in Iceland and how ICI has been a strong partner in that area. Here you can read a summary from his article.

Iceland is in a unique position in the world due to its variety of renewable energy resources. Large amounts of renewable energy in Iceland is in the form of electricity sold to aluminum factories which therefore leave a relatively low carbon footprint. The demand today is through further innovation in that category.

ICI has for years now been alerted to innovation in the energy utilization sector.  Regarding minimizing carbon footprints, a large chapter was written on analysis leading to the fact that energy spending is extremely high in fisheries.  The carbon footprint reaches 1000 kg for each 1000 kg fish landed. That problem has led to new solutions and licenses in using light instead of nets by trawlers. This solution has resulted in lower use of energy, lower carbon dioxide emissions and less damage to the sea bed. ICI has formed a co-operation around this project with the Marine Research Institute and companies in fish-net production and fisheries.  This co-operation has trusted the foundation of this research even more. Furthermore a company called Optitog Ltd. has been founded around this innovation.

ICI has also been focusing on minimizing multiple kinds of excreta from aluminum industry here in Iceland including ideas and realization on using rest material in mortar, rock wool and related products. The company Gerosion Ltd. run by Sunna Wallevík was founded around this project alongside the SER (Start-Up Energy Reykjavik) project.

Another project that ICI has been working on is how to produce electricity from low temperature-heat that otherwise is lost (waste heat), mainly from power plants.  The source of this waste heat has its physical explanation as a result of the efficiency in producing electricity from geothermal heat.  This is very low and becomes even lower as the heat of the geothermal plant gets higher. In 2015 in the accelerator program Startup Energy, a project around low heat electricity production was developed. The challenge lies mainly in the small size of the power generator which is only 1 Kw but can produce electricity from heat as low as 70 up to 135 °C.

The company XRG Power was founded around this exciting project and is managed by Mjöll Waldorff. Among the owners is VHE in Hafnarfjörður and a Startup Energy group which is led by Landsvirkjun and Arion Bank.

As can be read above various inventions and innovations in the renewable energy sector are in process which is in line with the urgency of minimizing various carbon footprints and other waste.

Power Challenges in Icelands Westfjords

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Icelands Minister of Industries and Innovation, Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir

One of the biggest challenges faced by the communities of the Westfjords of Iceland is to secure electricity. The region is not self-sufficient with electricity and needs to “import” electricity from other parts of Iceland.  Only one power line drives electricity to the region and it lies over high mountains. As the northerly location of the region implies it often faces severe weather conditions and the mountaintops can be hazardous during winter storms. 

This is an ongoing challenge which was recently addressed at a conference attended by most of the major stakeholders both local and national.  The Minister of Industries and Innovation, Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, responsible for energy affairs in Iceland on behalf of the government, was among speakers at the conference. In her speech she expressed an interest on behalf of the national government to solve the issues pertaining to creating a more sustainable energy production in the Westfjords.

Other speakers came from the public energy institutions, Landsnet which operate Iceland’s electricity transmission grid, National Energy Authority, Orkubú Vestfjarða (Westfjord Power Company) and energy entrepreneurs in the region.

All evidence points towards increasing demand for electricity in the region. Speakers at the conference agreed that it´s possible to harness more hydro energy. Really good options are available in hydro electricity production in the region but the problem is that they are far away from the main grid. This distance is among the main issues the national government and local actors need to solve. The conference was a small milestone where the stakeholders had a successful discussion on the topic and how it is possible to overcome that barrier.

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