The ‘big dream’ of MENA’s first CCUS plant

The boss of the MENA region’s first commercial-scale carbon capture, utilisation and storage facility believes it can act as a springboard for the technology globally.

Arafat Al Yafei, chief executive of the Al Reyadah project in Abu Dhabi, said that “the only way to do carbon capture and storage is to make commercial use of what you capture”.

“Doing CCS is a noble cause which we badly want to do, but to do it without a revenue stream is very difficult.”

Al Yafei explained that “when we started planning this project we realised that other CCS projects had not lasted because the revenue streams had dried up.”

The $122m Al Reyadah project is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and clean energy company Masdar and it aims to sequester up to 800,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

It harnesses the CO₂ emitted by major Abu Dhabi steel producer Emirates Steel Industries and injects it as a substitute for rich gas into the emirate’s oil reservoirs to help enhance their output.

“CO2 is one of the best agents to inject into the oil,” said Al Yafei, “because it changes the viscosity.”

Construction on the plant started in July 2013 and the project is one of only 22 large-scale CCUS ventures, either in operation or under construction worldwide, and is believed to be the first to capture CO₂ from an iron and steel works.

Al Reyadah, which means ‘leadership’ in Arabic, is the first company in the MENA region focused on developing commercial-scale CCUS projects.

The technology works in three stages. Carbon dioxide is first captured on site at the Emirates Steel manufacturing complex before being compressed and dehydrated. The third step involves conveying the CO2 via a 42-kilometre underground pipeline for enhanced oil recovery injection into two ADNOC onshore oilfields.

“This is a new concept in the region that we are trying to make commercially viable”, said Al Yafei. “We know that CCUS will expand not just in this region but around the world.”

He said there was huge potential for the technology in all oil-and-gas-rich countries.

The plant started commercial operations in November last year and Al Yafei said “it is a practical solution to ensure that CO2 emissions are reduced. We cannot have clean fossil fuels without CCUS.”

And he added: “The dream is big, and we are going step by step.”

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