Wood Group already has substantial carbon-related experience, much of it gained in the US supporting operators in their quest to boost output from depleted hydrocarbons reservoirs.
The company’s chief executive – engineering, Mike Straughen, said: “We do a lot of the engineering work for Occidental and, as the momentum has built on carbon capture and storage, we’ve looked at the market, looked at what we have to offer and realised that we have a lot of skills already … for instance, separating out CO, transporting it and injecting it for enhanced oil recovery. We’ve pulled that experience together and, in a similar manner to renewables, taken that to the market. At the end of last year, we secured a large contract with Masdar for the green-city scheme they’re building in Abu Dhabi. Reality is that, at the moment, there isn’t any large-scale CO capture and sequestration project other than as a byproduct from gas production. The concept is that Masdar will be the first carbon-neutral city in the world.”
Straughen agreed that what is happening in Abu Dhabi, or indeed China, puts Europe to shame.
“There are some positives in Europe, but there has been a propensity to talk about things, and you’ll see a lot of people badging carbon capture, but it’s just a lot of hot air.
“With Masdar, they’re putting real money into it. Plans are to have this operational by 2013. It’s large-scale and will potentially capture carbon from a variety of facilities, including steel mills, an aluminium smelter, power plant and hydrogen plant, and then transport the CO up to 300km (186 miles) and inject it into oil/gas reservoirs for enhanced recovery.
“We’re doing our Masdar work through Wood Group facilities in Houston and our office in Abu Dhabi, where we have local knowledge and a lot of pipeline expertise.”
Turning to the UK, Straughen said the company had started to get engaged in the CCS debate and had secured some study work.
Indeed, the group is embedded in the system, as chairman Sir Ian Wood sits on the Scottish Government’s energy advisory group, while Straughen is a member of the energy technology partnership advisory group.
Straughen: “There are two things that stand out as far as carbon capture goes. I agree it has the potential to play a significant part in tackling climate change.
“One is the technical challenges … the capture technology. There aren’t any large-scale fossil-fuelled power-generation demonstrator projects currently functioning.
“There’s phenomenal potential. If you look at coal and its utilisation, around 50% of US power generation is coal-fired; go to India and China and you’re up to 70-80%.
“So imagine finding the silver bullet for clean coal.”
However, at this time, carbon-capture technologies are both rudimentary and judged to be expensive.