Total Embarks on Innovative CCUS Project in China


Active in research and development on carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCUS) technologies, Total will help develop a prototype plant that will capture virtually all CO2 and use it to produce electricity and steam.

Total pioneered this field with its pilot plant in Lacq, southwestern France and is a partner in several CCUS research projects. In October 2017, we teamed up with Equinor (formerly Statoil) and Shell to develop the Northern Lights project in Norway, which aims to capture 35 million tons of CO2 over 25 years and scale up the technology for industrial use. On February 15, Patrick Pouyanné traveled to Norway, making an appeal alongside the CEOs of our two partners for financial support from Norway’s public institutions. “It’s more complex to convince people in the street that it’s nice, because it’s not green,” he told the media. “Taking CO2 to put it in storage seems to be sort of a waste bin, you know. But no, we need to master this technology. It’s important for the world,” he stressed.

This is the background to Total’s involvement in the Chinese-European Emission-Reducing Solutions, or CHEERS, project to develop a plant that will capture virtually all CO2 and use it to produce electricity and steam. In other words, electricity that is practically carbon-neutral.

David Nevicato, Corporate R&D explains how it works.

David Nevicato, responsable du programme CCUS à la R&D du Groupe

David Nevicato, CCS Program Leader in Corporate R&D,
tells us about CHEERS.

How does this demonstration plant work?

David Nevicato / This plant, with a capacity of 3 MWth, will be the largest of its kind in the world and use innovative technology known as Chemical Looping Combustion, or CLC (see below). The innovation in this technology comes from the fact that oil and gas combustion produces relatively pure CO2. This CO2 is therefore ready for final storage or utilization. The plant will also produce steam that will be used either on an industrial site or to generate electricity.

Why did you choose China to build this plant?

D. N. / Today, China’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions is clear, in both its fundamental research and the development of new technologies. The country is a pioneer in CCUS technology. With CHEERS, Total can draw on the knowledge of scientific experts on the subject from Tsinghua and Zhejiang universities. The plant will be located at the technical center of one of our project partners, Chinese thermal power equipment manufacturer Dongfang Boiler. This step will allow us to benefit from their expertise in industrial combustion technology and adapt an existing facility. 

Who are the other partners in the project?

D. N. / As well as our Chinese partners, we have four European partners: IFP Energies Nouvelles of France, Norway’s SINTEF an independent Norwegian research organization, Silesian University of Technology in Poland, and Norwegian nonprofit Bellona. Thanks to them, the project received funding of €10 million from the European Commission, with a further €7 million allocated by our Chinese partners and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. SINTEF is the project coordinator. We are contributing to the construction and start-up operations, and then we will monitor plant operations beginning in 2021. Total’s Chinese employees are already onsite and facilitating the project launch.

If the project results are conclusive, what happens next?

D. N. / If the project results are conclusive, we’ll be able to offer a much larger plant in around 2025, with thermal capacity of 50 MWth. This would be an intermediate, pre-commercial phase. Ultimately, we’re aiming to market an industrial plant rated at between 200 and 500 MWth.

Spotlight on CLC Technology

The technology used in this project is called Chemical Looping Combustion, or CLC.

Known as oxy-fuel combustion, the combustion process involved in chemical looping uses pure oxygen only, and no nitrogen. This generates heat to produce concentrated CO2 directly that is ready for geological storage or utilization. Oxy-fuel combustion is much more efficient than existing technologies, a major advantage. Pure oxygen is transported to the combustion zone by a solid metal oxide carrier, and there is no need to separate the CO2 from the flue gases. The heat produced by oxy-fuel combustion then produces steam used either as heat for industrial processes or to generate electricity.