Rationale for CCUS in South Africa
South Africa is reliant on fossil fuels for most of its primary energy supply. Approximately 90% of primary energy is derived from fossil fuels – 72% of which is coal. Furthermore, coal provides 85% of electricity generation capacity and 92% of electricity production. Coal is also used for the production of liquid fuels including approximately 30% of the petroleum used in South Africa. This reliance on fossil fuels has led to an approximate 400Mt CO 2 emissions per year. South Africa’s coal industry contributes significantly to employment opportunities, income generation as well as accounting for 6% of the country’s total merchandised exports.
Notwithstanding the recent advances made in renewable energies and energy efficiency measures, it is evident that fossil fuels will remain the main contributor to South Africa’s energy economy for some decades to come.
During the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, the South African President committed the country to lower greenhouse gas emissions – provided that international support in the form of funding and technology was forthcoming to assist with such an action. Such a commitment entails the application of a portfolio of clean technologies – including Carbon Capture and Storage.
Carbon Capture and Storage is viewed as a critical transition measure until nuclear and renewable become more dominate in the national energy supply.
The investigation into the viability of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in South Africa is being undertaken with the expressed approval and support of government
The mandate for undertaking CCS development in South Africa is derived from:
- The inclusion of CCS as one of the technologies in the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism greenhouse gas emission reduction scenario planning;
- The establishment of the South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (SACCCS) in 2009 in partnership with the Department of Energy (DoE), industry and international stakeholders;
- CCS as one of the eight Flagship Programmes of the National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper, 2011;
- Cabinet endorsement of the South African CCS Roadmap in May, 2012; and
- CCS is enshrined in the National Development Plan.
The strategy for CCS deployment in South Africa is divided in the following phases and their current status are:
- Preliminary Potential Investigation (Completed); a preliminary investigation was undertaken by the CSIR for the then Department of Minerals and Energy to ascertain whether South Africa had potential capturable carbon sources and storage sites. Results of that investigation, released during 2004, showed theoretically that South Africa had capturable emissions and potential storage sites. Based on this premise, further investigations were initiated.
- Geological Storage Atlas (completed); following a preliminary theoretical study that indicated that South Africa could have sufficient storage capacity, a project to derive more authoritative storage information commenced during September, 2008. The Carbon Dioxide Geological Storage Atlas has located and characterised potential storage sites at a theoretical level. The Atlas will be taken into the Centre’s programme of work and further developed to locate a storage site suitable for the PCSP.
- Pilot Carbon Dioxide Storage Project Experiment (Planned); a test of safely injecting carbon dioxide into South African reservoirs is essential to the understanding of the suitability of the local geology as a storage medium. It is also necessary to ascertain the dispersion and transformation reactions of the carbon dioxide in the storage medium and its effects on the surroundings of the storage medium. This experiment will be informed by similar injection activities currently underway internationally. The ultimate purpose of the Experiment is to show to decision makers that carbon capture and storage can be safely undertaken in South Africa.
- Demonstration Plant (Planned); a demonstration plant will test an integrated operating system under local conditions and forms an essential link between feasibility trials and a full scale commercial plant. This phase will demonstrate the capture, transport and safe injection of Carbon Dioxide into South African geological formations. The magnitude of the demonstration plant is in the order of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
- Commercial Operation (Planned); if positive outcomes of the demonstration plant ensue, a full scale commercial plant is envisaged. It is expected that this phase will not be a part of the South African Centre for Carbon Capture & Storage. The magnitude of the commercial scale operation is in the order of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
With the PCSP underway, attention is now being focused to other aspects of carbon capture and utilisation. The modalities of carbon capture and utilisation are contextualised as an holistic approach outlined in the Figure below.