In 2012, Uniper Benelux and ENGIE Energie Nederland announced a partnership in order to construct project ROAD (Rotterdam Capture and Storage Demonstration Project) by the year 2015. ROAD, located in the Maasvlakte harbor of Rotterdam, is now one of the world’s first underwater power plants capable of capturing and storing CO2 (1). The practical use behind ROAD is to store excess CO2 that is emitted by fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Netherlands is playing their part in reducing global temperatures by storing CO2. CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) is the key to reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and ROAD’s energy conversion mechanism utilizes CCS to function prosperously. The project directors of ROAD plan to capture five million tons of CO2 between 2015 and 2020 (1).
Before delving further into the development and functionalities of the ROAD project, it is paramount to understand the short, yet extensive, history of carbon capture technology that has led to such a modern day innovation. Coal-based power plants have always given off large amount amounts of CO2, heating up the earth’s atmosphere. In the 1970’s, environmental awareness turned into panic as scientists began to scramble for methods that would allow for coal plants to reduce their carbon footprint. The Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program at MIT was initiated in 1989, eventually leading to the creation of CCS technologies in the early 21st century (2). In the winter of 2008, the world’s first CCS system came online at the Schwarze Pumpe coal power plant in Germany (3). Little did the German scientists working on Schwarze Pumpe know that the amount of carbon dioxide they were storing at that plant would be minimalistic in comparison to CCS technologies 8 years later. The potential for storing captured carbon dioxide has grown six-fold in the last decade; Schwarze Pumpe’s storage facility has a 42 MW capacity, while ROAD’s capacity is 250 mW (4).
The process of the ROAD CCS system is divided into four steps: filtration, pipeline navigation, pressurized injection of the CO2 to great depths, and finally, the storage of CO2 in an empty gas chamber underwater (1). The four steps appear as a simple practice, yet state of the art technology allows project ROAD to store CO2 with bull’s-eye precision at an impressive capacity.
Project ROAD is not the first underwater system to store energy, but it is one of the largest facilities to store CO2. ROAD defends the atmosphere from CO2 profusion while creating energy in the proceeding, making it a multi-use energy complex. Since the international economy is dependent on fossil fuels to generate electricity, industrial complexes must continue to work with scientists to discover new techniques that can help reduce emissions. As energy complexes shift towards multi-use functionality, a decrease in CO2 will allow the atmosphere to begin filtering out harmful emissions. However, this change can only be brought on with the proper funding and applied innovation tactics.
Netherlands and major corporations in Western Europe are leading the way in the clean energy revolution. It is of utmost importance that major producers of fossil fuels in the Western Hemisphere continue to follow suit in the environmental revolution that is underway in Europe. There are currently no forms of clean energy that can serve as a reliable replacement for fossil fuels. Thus, it is the responsibility of energy companies and nation states to continue working on preventative methods for fighting carbon dioxide pollution. As new scientific methods allow for expansive growth in environmentally friendly technologies, it is unclear how new discoveries may shift the future for CCS and the clean energy revolution.
(1) Project ROAD 2020. “Introduction Video” Online Video Clip. Road CCS. LVB Networks, 12 May 2011. Web. 12 Aug 2016
(2) "Weyburn-Midale Fact Sheet: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Project."Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies @ MIT. MIT Energy Intitiative, 7 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
(3) Jha, Alok. "World's First Carbon Capture Pilot Fires up Clean-coal Advocates."The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 05 Sept. 2008. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
(4) Read, Andy. "Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage." ROAD – Rotterdam Capture and Storage Demonstration Project. SETIS, Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
Image: © Hansenn | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-industrial-area-image27103646#res14972580">Industrial area</a>