At first glance, the carbon neutrality initiative could be considered harmful to the hose & coupling industry, but there is actually a silver lining to this cloud.
By Robert McIlvaine, President & Founder, The McIlvaine Company
Reducing CO2 Emissions
The Biden administration has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 50% to 52% (based on levels recorded in 2005) by 2030. The administration has also pledged to reduce emissions to zero by 2050. This is called ‘net CO2’ emissions, as the goal is not to eliminate all sources of CO2. If you consider that humans exhale CO2, the goal of reducing emissions is to benefit humans, rather than cause the extinction of the human race.
China is, similarly, planning for a carbon neutrality by 2060.
Is this bad news for the hose & coupling industry? At first glance, it could appear to be. The switch from coal power to wind and solar greatly reduces the need for hoses & coupling in these applications. However, there is some irony associated with this transition. The push for carbon neutrality, will not eliminate the use of coal-fired plants; instead it will result in the plants being used in alternate methods. The plants will transition to use different fuels, which will result in a different fate for the CO2’ and will ultimately increase hose & coupling sales.
There are many sources of CO2 that cannot be eliminated; coal-fired power plants account for only 14% of the total global CO2 emissions. Some sources of CO2 that come from the industrial, commercial, residential, and agricultural sectors cannot be eliminated. Certain plans for reducing CO2 emissions, such as eliminating meat from human diets, will be quite difficult to achieve. Therefore, it will be necessary to utilize technologies that take the CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequester it in some manner.
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
There is universal agreement that carbon capture and sequestration process will be needed; there are however, few available options to choose from on the market.
One of the current processes available is a direct air process that utilizes potassium chloride as an absorbent. Utilizing this process would mean a lot of positive revenue for hose & coupling manufacturers, but many companies believe the process is too expensive for serious consideration.
The second available option, which is considered more practical, is actively being pursued by the United Kingdom. This process is called Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS).
An example of a company who is utilizing the BECCS system is Drax, a U.K.-based renewable energy company engaged in renewable power generation; it operates a 4,000 MW power plant in England. The company has purchased forests in the U.S. and transports wood chips from these forests to their plant. In this way, the company is already achieving carbon neutrality. Drax expects to be carbon negative, on a progressing basis, over the next 20 years. They will accomplish this by continually transforming its plant to use more carbon capture and sequestration technologies.
Converting Plants to BECCS
The cost of the BECCS approach is greatly reduced by the availability of existing coal-fired plants. Minimal capital investment is needed to switch to biomass. However, potential problems occur if the coal-fired plants are retired and then dismantled too soon, resulting in no leftover plants to convert to biomass.
Global energy related CO2 emissions amount to approximately 33 gigatons (GT). Coal contributes 15 GT (or 45%) of total global energy production. If all coal fired plants adopted the BECCS process, they would create a negative 15 GT of CO2 and help offset emissions from other sources. From this perspective, it becomes obvious that it is very important to not retire coal plants, but instead to convert them to BECCS.
While attending U.S. President Joe Biden’s global climate summit, China’s President Xi Jinping stated that, “China’s goal is to curb coal consumption in its economic plans over the next 10 years.” Xi also confirmed that China’s existing targets are on track for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions before 2030, and carbon neutrality before 2060. There has been a significant amount of publicity surrounding a Chinese program where inefficient coal plants are being retired and replaced by highly-efficient low emission ultra-supercritical coal-fired plants.
The Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy, Tsinghua University in China has studied multiple options for reducing carbon emissions. The conclusion they have come to is:
“Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a critical technology that can offer net CO2 emission reductions, while providing a sustainable energy supply at lower costs. The role of BECCS deployment in achieving deep decarbonization in China needs to be quantified. Scenario analyses were conducted in this study based on a computable general equilibrium energy-economic model, the China-in-Global Energy Model (C-GEM), with detailed representations of BECCS. The results showed that BECCS will capture 0.59 GT of CO2 in 2050 under the 2°C scenario, and 0.95 GT of CO2 in 2050 under the 1.5°C scenario, respectively. If these emission targets must be reached without BECCS, the carbon price and gross domestic product (GDP) losses will be much higher. Especially under the 1.5°C scenario, the deployment of BECCS can reduce the carbon price by 61% and the GDP loss rate by three percentage points in 2050, compared to a plan without the deployment of BECCS.”
With the President Jinping’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060, the use and benefits of BECCS would be considerably greater than envisioned in the study. Carbon capture would be several GT of CO2.
Implementing BECCS Technologies
It is also important for those companies building new plants to consider technologies that will lend themselves to a cost-effective conversion to biomass.
To address climate change, companies like Sumitomo have developed technologies such as the Flexi-Burn™, which allows circulating fluid bed boilers (CFBs) to operate in either conventional firing or carbon capture mode without significant plant modification. This gives clients the flexibility they need to endure an uncertain regulatory and carbon credit market.
Detailed analyses were conducted relative to flexibility for new coal plants in India. The ability to use lower cost coals was one of the cost advantages. The conclusion was that Fluid Bed Combustion (FBC) was competitive for high quality coal sources and had advantages for low quality coal or biomass combustion.
BECCS and Hoses & Couplings
This BECCS program will be of immediate benefit to the hose & coupling industry. Coal plants which would have been retired will instead buy replacement components, including hoses & coupling for various processes. When the plants make their full conversion, there will be a large number of new hoses used for the capture and transmission of CO2.
There are a number of people in the hose & coupling and power industries who are aware of this situation. However, it is not clear that governments or environmentalists understand the options that are available. Whether or not it was intentional, the advocates of carbon neutrality are going to cause existing coal fired plants to be converted to BECCS, rather than retired.
- Hose & Couplings World Market published by the McIlvaine Company.
About the Author
Bob McIlvaine founded the McIlvaine Company in 1974 and oversees the work of 30 analysts and researchers. He has a BA degree from Princeton University.