Stepping on the gas

August 9, 2010

Gas is part of the solution to the global energy challenge says Brian Bjordal, president and CEO of Gassco, whose throughput of gas has doubled in just ten years. Meg Chesshyre reports.

On the positive side, notes Bjordal, there are significant conventional reserves of gas with much larger reserves of unconventional gas and it is a cleaner fuel, although there are still problems dealing with carbon dioxide emissions. Wind energy is clean, he adds, but ‘what do you do when the wind doesn't blow?' When it is extremely cold the wind does not blow, as was observed in Norway last winter.

In the past 33 years Norway has become a very substantial gas exporter into Europe and the Norwegian gas infrastructure model secured reliable imports, notes Bjordal, adding: ‘Norway has 60% of Western Europe's gas reserves, and is fortunate in being geographically positioned next to one of the world's largest gas markets.' Gassco throughput had doubled in the decade since Bjordal was appointed and, at 96.6bcm in 2009, it reached its highest level ever.

Gassco is the world's largest integrated gas evacuation system collecting gas from 40 to 50 producing fields and is technologically very advanced with very high deliverability, close to 100%, Bjordal points out. The plan to 2020 is towards full utilization of the gas infrastructure systems, optimizing the current system while evaluating the need for new investments. After 2020 there are uncertainties related to future gas feed, he says. Decisions taken in the next few years will decide the capacity situation in 2020 and onwards.

Providing 20% of European gas supply, Gassco has a very high focus on safe and efficient gas transportation, says Bjordal, citing two incidents in the prolonged cold spell last winter – the longest for more than 30 years. At Kårstø the steam froze in the pipe at the top of the flare blocking it with a large ice plug, and the plant had to be closed down until the flare was operational again. Coincidentally, at the same time the plant at Nyhamna, processing Ormen Lange gas, had to be shut down due to ice restrictions. The two events resulted in emergency alerts being issued in the UK.

Gassco is currently involved in a number of studies relating to major gas infrastructure projects, looking into new infrastructure for Norwegian Sea gas discoveries as well as assessing the need to add capacity to existing infrastructure, increasing flexibility and regularity. It is also evaluating transport solutions for captured CO2 emissions from gas-fired power plants. The cost of dealing with CO2 has proved to be much higher than expected, says Bjordal.

Mongstad moves
Gassnova and Statoil expect the process of prequalifying potential suppliers of capture facilities for full-scale CO2 capture at Mongstad to be completed in August. The plan is to establish study contracts with the suppliers towards the end of 2010 with concept development and pre-engineering taking from 2011 to 2013 with a view to making a final investment decision in 2014.

The prequalification lays the foundation for an open international tender competition which will be conducted in accordance with the EEA's procurement regulations, wherein the suppliers must document experience and capability to deliver a capture facility with amine-based technology that is sufficiently matured to start construction at Mongstad from 2014. This means that suppliers have to document factors such as technology and experience in delivering large, complex plants.

The project will then select a number of companies to receive study contracts and to participate in the pre-engineering phase where the technical concept will be further engineered. These companies will then compete for the EPC construction contract for the capture facility. The final selection of supplier is scheduled for 2013, OE when an EPC contract will be signed.

‘Participation in the prequalification is only open to suppliers of amine-based technology, as this is the only technology regarded as being sufficiently matured for construction at Mongstad within the set timeframe,' explains Kurt Georgsen, who heads Statoil's fullscale project at Mongstad.

The capture facility will be integrated into a refinery and combined heat and power plant in operation, implying that the regularity of the capture plant will be key. The integration will also have implications for the construction phase. At the same time, the technology must be scaled up many times compared with the largest existing capture facilities.

‘This is a complicated facility that will be integrated with an existing industrial plant,' says project manager Julia Lindland from Gassnova. ‘We will be conducting detailed reviews with the potential suppliers to ensure that they thoroughly understand both the scope and the complexity.' Comprehensive studies aimed at clarifying potential health risks associated with amine emissions started in May and June. This work is expected to provide a basis for testing the specific amine solutions in the first part of the detailed engineering phase, sometime in 2012.

‘We must be certain that all healthrelated factors associated with emissions from the amine process have been clarified and verified,' says Statoil's project manager Petter Bryn. ‘Therefore, we are devoting considerable resources in the next few years to securing more knowledge, as well as developing good methods for sampling and analysis. We are using the best independent research communities in the world, in addition to our own experts.

‘We will face substantial challenges as regards detailed engineering of utility systems and in integrating the capture facility with the refinery and the combined heat and power plant,' he adds.

CCS: counting the cost
Carbon, capture and storage is still too expensive because of the low cost of emitting CO2, according to Aker Solutions investment director Liv Monica Stubholt. The company in 2006 established Aker Clean Carbon to focus on existing CCS competencies and it has selected an amine-based solvent, used post-combustion, for CO2 extraction and sequestration. The technology has been tried on a small-scale basis, but now needs to be upscaled and applied to large industrial projects.

The company is working on a new plastic lining for the absorption tower and also looking at an amine wash component that could act as a chimney hat on top of the absorption tower, she says. Current technology already captures more than 90% of the carbon dioxide. Another possibility is to combine carbon capture with the recovery of other gases, such as NOX and sulphur, at the moment recovered using separate units.

Aker has been involved in the carbon capture business for more than 18 years, taking part in 17 pilot demonstration and R&D projects in that time and implementing carbon dioxide sequestration and storage on Sleipner for Statoil using amine technology. ‘This is offshore going green,' says Stubholt, pointing out that Aker's competence sprang directly from its involvement in the development of offshore oil and gas exploration and production on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

On the carbon storage side, Aker Solutions has been doing a transportation and storage study for Gassco, building on 17 years of successful monitoring of CO2 storage at Sleipner and substantial onshore storage experience of the much more volatile and dangerous gas – natural gas. Stubholt says she understands, however, that there is considerable public concern at a grassroots level in several EU countries, in particular in Germany, about CO2 being stored underground. ‘It is, therefore, necessary to be able to document knowledge and experience,' she concludes. ‘From a professional and industrial point of view, however, storage is not the bottleneck in deploying carbon capture in a safe way.' OE

More gas, less oil, more drilling

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate forecasts gas sales of 112bcm by 2014, compared with last year's 103bcm. Continued high production levels are anticipated into the 2020s, with less oil but more gas. Norway currently has 65 fields in production, eight fields in the development phase, 82 discoveries under evaluation and around 290 projects for improved recovery in existing fields.

Drilling on the Norwegian Continental Shelf in 2009 resulted in eight oil, four oil/gas, two gas-condensate and three gas discoveries in the North Sea and one oil, one oil/gas, one gas-condensate and four gas discoveries in the Norwegian Sea. Estimated recoverable reserves in these 28 discoveries are put at 36-94mmcm of oil-condensate and 37-154bcm of gas.

A high level of drilling activity continues in 2010.

As well as Gjøa, Vega and Vega South, other expected NCS field start-ups in 2010 are Morvin and Yme. PDO submissions are expected this year for Valemon, Frøy, Gaupe, Flyndre, Ekofisk and Marulk. Six new fields started up last year – 33/9-6 Delta, Volund, Rev, Alve, Yttegryta and Tyrihans.



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