Capture them, store them, keep them out of environment
Masdar may be known primarily for its solar arrays, giant wind farms, and futuristic architecture.
But while much of the clean-tech company's efforts go into developing and adapting renewable energy for the Gulf, Masdar has also seized on a major opportunity in hydrocarbons.
The ever-improving technology for the capture and storage of carbon emissions has allowed them to write a new script by sequestering CO2 emissions in oil wells themselves. Masdar has been exploring the potential of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in conjunction with enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques deployed to maintain pressure in oil reservoirs to maximise production.
"CCS represents a central part of the clean energy story. We try to approach the energy sector at large through renewables, but also with the understanding that the hydrocarbon resources will be used for a period of time across the globe," said Bader Al Lamki, director at Masdar Clean Energy.
With this in mind, the company has been working on a pilot project with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) to use carbon dioxide derived from the air instead of natural gas to boost production at the Rumaitha field.
The pilot proved successful, and the first large scale project is expected to follow soon.
The project will capture 800,000 tonnes of CO2 emanating from the Emirates Steel Industries (ESI) plant in Musaffah annually, and pipe it to the Rumaitha field for injection. The preliminary engineering and design work has been completed, and bids for the construction of the CSS facilities and the 50 kilometre pipeline have been received and are being evaluated, said Mr Al Lamki.
Masdar hopes to get the green light from the Executive Council this year. Adnoc and Masdar first have to agree on a price for the emissions that will make the project financially feasible on a large scale.
"We have to approach these technologies, and the space that we are mandated to operate in, with a commercial mind," said Mr Al Lamki.
While the price of CO2 has been a sticking point in the past, Adnoc is willing to pay for CO2 because it defrays the use of natural gas, which is normally used in enhanced recovery to pressurise oilfields. With UAE power demands rising, gas demand has been rising too, making the commodity especially valuable. CCS promises to increase the volume of domestic gas available for power generation and defray the need for gas imports.
Masdar is optimistic that, over time, the emirate's industrial and power sector will be incorporated into the carbon capture and injection scheme.
The company has mapped out the emirate's CCS EOR opportunities, coming up with a list that includes Emirates Aluminium, refineries, and Abu Dhabi's existing and future power plants.
"All those provide an array of different options, each one will be executed or considered once we've ascertained that it is commercially and technically feasible, and it is safe," said Mr Al Lamki.