Reduce the energy penalty and cost of CCUS capture

Why is this gap important?

Reducing the energy penalty of capture plants will reduce the cost of capture technology, one of the main barriers to widespread CCUS deployment today.

As the theoretical separation energy for capture is generally very low compared to the requirements of today's typical systems, in particular for post-combustion plants, opportunities for significant cost reductions exist. 

Technology solutions

Many technologies and improvements have been proposed to reduce the energy penalty. Among these, better system integration and reducing solvent regeneration energy for post-combustion capture are the most promising.

Past research into solvents has already reduced the amount of energy required to separate CO2 from flue gas at post-combustion capture plants by 50% since 1990. Now, several technological approaches are emerging that could improve post-combustion capture, covering the full range of technological maturity. The most promising separation routes are based on solvent- or sorbent-based processes (TRL 4-8) or membranes (TRL 6) (see IEAGHG, 2014).

Two technologies, hydrogen separation membranes (TRL 5) and sorption enhanced water gas shift (TRL 5) offer substantial cost reductions for pre-combustion capture but are at earlier development stages.

Hydrogen separation membranes Readiness level:

Sorption enhanced water gas shift Readiness level:

Membrane separation routes Readiness level:

Colored bars represent the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of each technology. Learn more about TRLs

What are the leading initiatives?

Several private sector companies as well as research institutions lead research on improved solvent- or sorbent-based processes. IEAGHG (2014) provides a comprehensive overview by technology of the vast network of organisations involved in this area. 

For a recent overview of the organisations involved in this area, please consult e.g. the NETL or the IEAGHG webpages. 

Recommended actions

Industrial producers

Next 5 years:

  • Develop collaborative research programmes or networks among companies, equipment suppliers, research institutes and governments to pool technical and financial resources for RD&D on CCUS, including through private-public partnerships.

Finance/economy ministries

Next 5 years:

  • Mitigate risks of investing in CCUS through investment stimulus mechanisms that leverage private funding for innovative low-carbon technologies and through promoting private-public partnerships.

NGOs and think tanks

Next 5 years:

  • Raise awareness of the longer-term need for CCUS to reduce emissions.

Industry and academia

Next 5 years:

  • Overcome technical, engineering and materials science challenges related to better system integration.