During the Global Energy Prize Summit, which took place at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany on 10 April 2019, international experts, including Nobel prize laureates, warned that more has to be done in terms of investment and policy if the Paris commitments to reverse climate change were to be taken seriously. The event was organised by the Global Energy Association, which grants a EUR 530,000 annual award to distinguished scientists thriving to meet global energy challenges since 2002.
One of the previous winners of the award and Nobel prize laureate Rodney John Allam, known for his Allam power cycle to convert fossil fuels into mechanical power while capturing CO2, flagged the “depressing” BP Energy Outlook forecasting that the share of the fossil fuel use in the total energy mix would not necessarily change by 2040. According to the most optimistic scenario of the Outlook, in spite of the large increases in the use of renewables, the primary energy demand would still be met by fossil fuel in 2040, especially considering the growing energy demand in countries, such as China and India.
Professor Allam, a Member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), pointed out to recently approved contracts by China to build new coal-fired power stations to produce 259 Gw of energy – the equivalent of the entire energy capacity of the US fleet. Given the long operating life – approximately 40 years – of these power stations, their sustainability could be assured by conversion to power stations using clean technologies, such as oxyfuel, according to the scientist.
Professor Allam is of the opinion that European governments should provide incentives for CO2 storage as they did for renewables, such as wind and solar power. “Given that wind and solar power are volatile and cannot be stored, it would be imperative to develop new technologies for carbon capture, utilisation and storage”, says Allam.
Power plants based on the Allam cycle are already being built in the UK and the US and are expected to be operational in the mid 2020s. This zero-emission plants are expected to produce low-cost electricity estimated at 6 cents per kW. The plants will be run by oxyfuel, created with the injection of a small portion of oxygen into CO2, which circulates in a two-stage compression system under high-pressure with the help of a turbine and a heat exchanger. At the end of the cycle, the CO2 is produced as either a high-pressure fluid for pipeline transportation or as a liquid for shipping in tankers. The British engineer suggests that the liquid CO2 could be exported to oil-exploring countries, which could improve the efficiency of their operations by applying high-pressure CO2 to extract hydrocarbons. The US recently introduced a tax credit to boost the carbon capture and storage or to use CO2 to extract oil from existing wells.
Despite some forecasts claiming that there will be no real penetration for electric cars or hydrogen power cars in the near future, Professor Allam highlighted the possibility to utilise the Allam cycle to produce hydrogen fuel for vehicles. Commending the revolutionary nature of these new technologies, the Nobel prize laureate described them as “individualised power stations” able to provide energy for household and transport needs.
In his view, global protests on climate change led by students might be influential on raising awareness but they would not be meaningful unless sustainable finance to encourage clean investment, including subsidies and tax breaks for CO2 storage, is put in place to keep the global temperature rise below 1,5 degrees Celsius. Especially considering that the rate of the rise in temperatures has been reportedly increasing during the last 4 years.