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Sinopec completes China’s first large carbon capture plant

Company will use carbon dioxide from a chemical plant to enhance oil production

by Michael McCoy
February 4, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 5

A photo of Sinopec's carbon-capture facility.
Credit: Sinopec
Carbon dioxide captured at this facility will be piped to an oil field where it will aid in oil recovery.

Sinopec has completed construction on what it calls China’s first megaton carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) plant. The facility, in the city of Zibo, joins a growing fleet of facilities in the US, Canada, and elsewhere that advocates say are necessary for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sinopec, an oil company and China’s largest chemical maker, says the facility will capture 1 million metric tons per year of carbon dioxide. A subsidiary, Qilu Petrochemical, generates the greenhouse gas while gasifying coal to produce hydrogen for chemical production.

After being purified and compressed, the CO2 will be transported 75 km by pipeline to Sinopec’s Zhenglizhuang oil field, where it will be injected for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In the process, the company says, the CO2 will be sealed underground.

The Sinopec installation uses standard technology, says David Kearns, a principal consultant for CCS technology at the Global CCS Institute, a think tank dedicated to accelerating the deployment of CCS. The facility is also not as big as many other commercial-scale installations around the world.

What is special about it, he says, is that it is a first for China, which only recently set the ambitious goals of reaching peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. “They’re in a bit of a catch-up mode,” Kearns says of China. “They’ve got a big job to do. CCS has to be part of the picture.”

Sinopec says it will build another megaton carbon-capture unit at its Nanjing Chemical Industries subsidiary by 2025. CO2 from that plant will be similarly injected into nearby oil fields for EOR.

Although extracting fossil fuels isn’t a very environmentally sound use of captured CO2, it does demonstrate a business case for the technology, Kearns says. Most captured CO2 will need to go into dedicated geological formations, but “no one is going to do dedicated geological storage unless there’s a business case,” he says. “That’s really where policy drivers come in.”



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