Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Algeria: ambitions to become a leader in carbon capturing


After BP and Statoil pioneered the technique at In Salah in the centre of Algeria, Total, Gaz de France and Sonatrach have launched a joint venture to capture CO2 from gas fields at Timimoun, Ahmet and Touat in the South-West. But carbon capturing is not yet part of the Clean Development Mechanism defined in the Kyoto Protocol.

Algeria aims to become a world leader in carbon capturing and storage at gas fields. The country is already considered to be a pioneer in the field, and plans to demonstrate the reliability and importance of the technique through the projects of Sonatrach and its foreign partners. The gas fields of In Salah are among very few in the world that employ carbon-capturing technology. Carbon dioxide is trapped in the deep layers of such fields, and capturing the gas instead of releasing it into the atmosphere reduces greenhouse gas emissions. "Over the 15-year life of the Sonatrach-BP-Statoil partnership, the fields will allow the capture and injection of 20 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions of 200 000 cars driving 30 000 km a year," explained Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi. The technique will next be implemented on other sites: Sonatrach plans to take it to its gas fields at Rhourde Nouss and Gassi Touil. In a context of falling environmental investment spending worldwide, Total and Gaz de France plan to roll it out at Timimoun, Ahmet and Touat. The fields mentioned hold 20% of Algeria's medium-term exportable gas reserves.

Capture CO2 in Algeria

CCS not yet part of emissions trading

On the strength of its breakthroughs in carbon capture and storage (CCS), Algeria organised the second international conference on the subject in conjunction with the International Energy Forum (IEF). During the forum, the Algerian government reaffirmed its commitment to the widespread use of CCS technology and the importance of integrating these methods with the Clean Development Mechanism and the burgeoning international carbon market. At the moment this market excludes CCS, focussing instead on the use of renewable energy sources. "We need to prove that this technology is reliable and implement a public education programme to explain to people that there is no risk of CO2 pollution of the air," said Hamid Dahmani, an advisor to the Energy Minister. Money from carbon to finance renewable energy What is at stake is making money from the quantities of CO2 injected into the gas fields. The cost of a ton of carbon on the international carbon trading market varies from 10 to 20 euros, and if CCS is integrated into this market, oil and gas producers, especially in Africa, would be bale to use these funds to develop sustainable energy sources. Algeria is also making progress in doing away with gas flaring: 90% of oil fields have stopped flaring. The Trans-Sahara gas pipeline project, from Nigeria to Europe via Niger and Algeria, will eliminate the flaring of gas equivalent to 200 000 barrels of oil. All these efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could theoretically be monetised. While African countries contribute only marginally to CO2 emissions (4% of the world total), its help in the struggle against climate change could make a big difference. Paradoxically, despite all these efforts, Algeria has not yet submitted a Clean Development Mechanism project to the United Nations, while its neighbour Tunisia has.

Salim Dali

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