June 16, 2023 • 4 min read

Engineering and designing CCS capabilities for VPI Immingham

How we’re retrofitting a gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant with carbon capture and storage, as part of the United Kingdom’s Humber Zero project

The Humber region is home to many of the UK’s critical industries, including power generation, chemicals manufacturing, and refining. Together, the facilities in the region emit over 12 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

“The Humber region is also key to the UK’s ambition to achieve net zero by 2050. And as a UK-based power generator and owner of a 1260 MW combined cycle natural gas power plant adjacent to the Humber Oil Refinery, VPI is a key part in the Humber Zero project to decarbonize the region,” says Alex Southall, Senior Project Manager.

VPI plans to reduce the CO2 intensity of its Immingham gas-fired power station by up to 3.3 million tonnes per annum initially, from two of its three gas turbines and its two auxiliary boiler exhausts.

But how can this power plant continue to generate the same amount of electricity with only a fraction of the CO2 emissions?

Retrofitting carbon capture technology to a highly thermally efficient CHP plant

As VPI’s Immingham power station is already operational, the key challenge was developing a viable approach to retrofit carbon capture technology to the plant’s existing equipment.

“Our team was tasked with implementing new carbon capture technology across two gas turbines and two auxiliary gas boilers,” continues Southall. “And because it was commissioned 19 years ago, this equipment wasn’t designed with carbon capture in mind.

“The scope of the project includes the capture of over 95 percent of the CO2 from the plant’s flue gasses followed by treatment, conditioning and compression for export into the region’s shared CO2 transport and storage system.”  

This carbon capture technology hasn’t been used at this scale before, so de-risking the project was a key focus for the team. 

“Carbon capture has been around for decades, but the Immingham carbon capture plant is on track to be the largest natural gas-fired carbon capture project in the world. The project will use Shell’s CANSOLV CO2 technology to capture the CO2 from the flue gasses before it’s compressed, transported, injected, and stored under the seabed,” explains Southall.

“The team carried out technology validation studies for each of the key technologies and first-of-a-kind applications.

“We looked at how the technologies were going to be integrated with the existing plant, their required specification, and how that compares to how they’ve been implemented elsewhere. And undertook research and vendor engagement to confirm that the design and equipment specifications were suitable.

“Making sure to maximize the utilization of the already proven technologies and minimize the risk associated with those technologies.”

“Carrying out these validations and risk assessments allowed us to understand the complexities of the project better and any potential gap between existing technology and the proposed application. The result was we developed the design and delivery strategy for the project including engineering, procurement, construction, and commissioning.”

Improving the project with new collaborations

However, understanding the complexities of CCUS technologies wasn’t the only success. As Southall explains, the impact collaboration had on the project outcome.

“Worley is also providing front-end engineering design (FEED) services to integrate Shell’s CANSOLV CO2 technology to expand CCS capabilities to an adjacent refinery on site. Both projects comprise the Humber Zero remit and will share the same CO2 export facility.

“Net zero is, in large part, an infrastructure challenge and if we continue to deliver projects at the pace and scale we have in the past we won’t achieve net zero by 2050. In fact, we might not even get halfway. The VPI Immingham CCS project presented an opportunity for us to take a more partnered approach to streamline project delivery.

“Both Worley project teams worked together to assess and mitigate common risks and uncertainties such as CO2 metering, compression, materials selection, and overall technology integration between the two projects,” adds Southall.

“The teams also collaborated to support complementary execution plans such as construction laydown space, site access, and transport and storage network interface.”

Leading the way in decarbonizing baseload electricity generation

While Southhall’s main priority was leading the team through a successful FEED, he is optimistic about the project’s potential to pave the way for similar carbon capture projects and its likely impact on the UK’s decarbonization journey.

“If completed, this project has the capacity to capture over three million tonnes of CO2 each year. That’s a considerable proportion of the UK government’s target. The Immingham CCS project could become a blueprint for carbon capture and storage projects at the size and scale required for the energy transition.

“It may be a first-of-its-kind project now, but there are lots of opportunities for it to be scaled and replicated across the global fleet of gas-fired combined cycle power stations,” says Southall.

“As the world starts to transition towards a cleaner future, we’re proud to be using our experience in conventional energy to provide the insight, knowledge, and expertise needed to deliver sustainable solutions for customers on their decarbonization journey. As we unlock the potential for CCUS in the energy mix of the future.”

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