How Ocean Energy Can Decarbonize the Process of Carbon Capture and Storage

C-Power SeaRAY autonomous offshore power system in the water

Governments and businesses around the world are exploring carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) as a solution to reach international decarbonization goals with renewed vigor. Look no further than increased tax incentives for CCUS projects in the United States through the Inflation Reduction Act or the large-scale Northern Lights carbon transport and storage project under construction off Norway’s coast in the North Sea. 

While CCUS has the potential to be one of the world’s most significant tools in the fight against climate change, the processes involved in capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial and energy generating sources, transporting it, and storing it can themselves be carbon intensive. Rather than work against the decarbonization goals CCUS is designed to serve, carbon capture, transport, and storage processes should be as clean as possible. 

Enter ocean energy. 

C-Power, Shell and subsea battery energy storage systems provider Verlume recently teamed up to co-author a paper on how ocean energy from the SeaRAY autonomous offshore power system (AOPS) could provide power and data, cut infrastructure costs, and reduce carbon emissions from operations at the Northern Lights CCUS project. Here, we summarize the paper to present a case in point for the potential of ocean energy to make an important climate infrastructure project even cleaner. 

Case in Point: Northern Lights and the Perfect Marriage of Ocean Energy and CCUS 

When it opens in 2024, Northern Lights will be the world’s first open-source CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, offering carbon storage as a service for businesses throughout Europe. The project’s ambition is to reach a capacity to store 5 million tons of CO2 per year. An offshore receiving terminal, offshore pipeline, and subsea lines to the storage sites will be operated to accommodate this potential volume. 

After carbon is captured at emissions sites, the liquefied CO2 is transported by ship to the Northern Lights onshore terminal on Norway’s western coast. Once delivered to the terminal, the CO2 is transported to the subsea injection site via a 100-kilometer pipeline, where it is injected and permanently stored 2,600 meters below the seabed. The project currently plans to use fluids umbilical and power and signal cables from a preexisting platform to help inject the CO2 into storage wells. That plan entails significant cost for lengthy subsea lines and an ongoing source of new CO2 emissions. 

Equinor Northern Lights infographic
Source: Equinor

But in the wave-rich North Sea, what if local, predictable, and reliable ocean energy was used instead? 

Ocean energy solutions such as C-Power’s SeaRAY AOPS would eliminate the need for the fluids umbilical and power and supply cables needed for Phase 1 of the project and a proposed Phase 2 expansion. 

Compared to Northern Lights’ proposed plans to meet power, data, and offshore operational needs, AOPS deployment would yield cost, carbon and efficiency benefits, including: 

  • An AOPS with subsea chemical storage and injection would eliminate the need for all umbilicals and cables from the offshore platform to the Phase 1 well and Phase 2 wells. Eliminating umbilicals and cables delivers significant cost savings and reduced operating complexity and risk incumbent with inspecting and maintaining lengthy cables.  
  • An AOPS would eliminate the CO2 emissions currently projected from the proposed topside injection system, along with vessel-produced emissions for any monitoring or inspection activities.  
  • Should Northern Lights initiate plans for remote maintenance, an AOPS is also a solution for remote, autonomous, resident robotics and operating equipment.  

In summary, estimated cost savings through deployment of AOPS solutions, compared to the incumbent proposed approach, are at least 50%. 

Beyond cost savings, Northern Lights is a critical project to decarbonize the European economy. AOPS deployment would result in a significant reduction of CO2 emissions from operations, helping the facilitates strive for net-zero operations. 

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