The industry faces a major challenge: to drastically reduce CO₂ emissions. Sectors such as steel, cement, waste processing, refining and petrochemicals are still producing large amounts of CO₂2. TNO has been active for more than twenty years in national and international programmes aimed at the capture, storage, transportation and beneficial use of CO₂.
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In the meantime, it has been demonstrated on an industrial scale at various companies that CO₂ emissions can be reduced by capture and that the challenges lie in reducing the costs of this.
For the time being, CO₂ capture is the only alternative for many sectors to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases. After all, companies will still be dependent on fossil fuels and raw materials for their production processes for some time to come. TNO is working with industrial and scientific partners at home and abroad on methods to remove CO₂ emissions early in the process (pre-combustion) or capture it from flue gases after burning gas, coal or waste (post-combustion). Where possible, the CO₂ is then reused or stored underground.
In national projects such as CATO (CO₂ Capture Transport Storage) since 2004 and ROAD (Rotterdam Storage and Capture Demonstration Project) a lot of research has been done with partners, and knowledge has been acquired about the possibilities and risks of CO₂ capture and storage. In a European context TNO has been working for some time in research and demonstration projects aimed at specific sectors.
Examples include STEPWISE, FReSMe and BOF2UREA forCO₂ reduction in the steel industry, CEMCAP in the cement industry and ALIGN-CCUS whose focus lies on decarbonisation in six European industrial regions. This TNO-led project involves the combination of capture, transport, use and storage. TNO's involvement in these major projects stems from our in-depth knowledge of these four areas, the links between them and the energy system as a whole.
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In the area of capture, there are two examples where TNO's expertise has borne fruit.
In the port of Rotterdam there are large-scale plans for the transport of captured CO₂. The Port of Rotterdam Authority, Gasunie and EBN are working together on this in the Porthos project. Currently, the industry uses a lot of hydrogen, especially for high-temperature processes, by burning natural gas.
Porthos provides a new system of pipelines to which companies from the port can connect in order to transport their captured CO₂ to empty gas fields under the North Sea. A similar plan, Athos, is in place for the North Sea Canal area.
TNO is working closely with these consortia and investigating how the transport to empty gas fields under the North Sea can best be realised technologically and economically. The plans also dovetail nicely with the H-vision initiative to produce blue hydrogen on a large scale in the port of Rotterdam. In that case, hydrogen production still takes place with natural gas, but the CO₂ that is released is captured and stored. The infrastructure of Porthos and Athos can be used to transport this to the empty gas fields.
The amount of CO₂ captured will only increase in the coming period. CO₂ is more than a harmful greenhouse gas because you can turn it into raw materials and fuels using special technologies. Then it’s a double-edged sword: cutting CO₂ emissions by substituting fossil substances and, instead, converting the CO₂ into useful products. CO₂ can be used as a carbon source to produce new, synthetic hydrocarbons.
TNO is developing technology to produce these synthetic fuels and raw materials as efficiently as possible. In the future, planes, trucks and ships will be able to use them and the houses we live in and the products we use will be made from synthetic building materials.
Storage of CO₂ in empty gas fields under the North Sea serves two purposes. It no longer rises up the chimney into the atmosphere but is captured and stored safely. CO₂ storage is part of the system integration in the North Sea and gives a second life to oil and gas installations. In the past TNO was active in the ROAD project where a system was designed to safely store CO₂ in an empty gas field.
Many companies have plans for CO₂ capture but do not know enough about how to effectively achieve this technologically and economically. TNO has the knowledge, expertise and facilities to help companies achieve this cost-efficiently.
In the coming years, we will continue to work with industrial and knowledge partners on the further development of techniques for the capture, transport, use and storage of CO₂. In these areas we prepare and support large-scale demonstration projects. In our research, we explicitly consider the risks, economic feasibility and regulations, all of which aims to result in substantially lower CO₂ emissions in the coming period with effective and affordable technologies.