A major focus of the Williams Group collaboration with Li Zheng’s group at Tsinghua University was a study to identify and analyze opportunities for early commercial-scale CO2 capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects in China. A manuscript based on this analysis was submitted to Energy and Environmental Science in late 2009.

This study was motivated by the now widely recognized need for demonstration projects to be carried out at “mega-scale” (at least one million tonnes per year of CO2 storage) in a variety of geological formations. An international political framework for early CCS action has already been established. The G8 have agreed to sponsor twenty large-scale, fully integrated CCS demonstration projects worldwide with the aim of establishing the basis for broad commercial deployment of CCS technologies after 2020, and the Australian government has established a Global CCS Institute as an instrument to facilitate implementation of the G8 Global CCS Initiative. Much of the incremental cost of CCS for these projects will probably have to be paid for by governments (individually or collectively) because of the likelihood that in many, if not most, parts of the world, carbon prices will be lower initially than what will be needed to make pursuit of CCS a profitable activity for private companies. If governments will have to pay for the incremental CCS cost, they will want to pursue projects in which they can maximize the learning about the gigascale prospects of CCS per dollar invested by governments.

China is unique in the large number (nearly 400) of existing and planned projects for making ammonia, methanol, and other fuels and chemicals from coal, natural by-products of which are nearly pure CO2 streams. Some of the 20 CCS demonstration projects called for by the G8 might be expeditiously located in China—taking advantage of the relatively low cost of capturing these CO2 streams (compared with capturing CO2 from power plant flue gases). The researchers’ analysis identified 18 coal-chemicals/fuels facilities, each emitting one million tonnes per year or more of CO2, that are within 10 km of prospective deep saline aquifer CO2 storage sites and an additional 8 facilities within 100 km. Potential CO2 storage basins were identified based on work by others, and two published cost models for CO2 compression and transport were adapted to develop preliminary estimates of prospective costs for potential CCS projects in China.

Williams participated in the Strategic Forum for a U.S. – China Clean Energy Partnership held in Beijing, 21-23 October 2009 (convened by The Brookings Institution and the China Institute of Strategy and Management). As one of the three US presenters to the Working Group for Cooperation on Coal, Williams recommended that one focus of the Partnership be cooperation on CCS demonstration projects at chemical plants in China—a recommendation that became one of the major recommendations of the Coal Working Group to the U.S. and Chinese governments.