What Does It Take to Go Net-Zero-CO2? A Life Cycle Assessment on Long-Term Storage of Intermittent Renewables With Chemical Energy Carriers

Jan Bernard Wevers, Li Shen, Mijndert van der Spek

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Abstract

The concept of net-zero-CO2 power systems has gained increased attention by the EU goal to be a climate neutral continent by 2050. As potential pathways toward a net-zero-power system, this work analyzes future power systems based on intermittent renewable electricity with long-term storage through chemical energy carriers, so called Power-to-Fuel-to-Power systems, and a system based on the combustion of natural gas with 100% carbon capture and storage. The chemical energy carriers selected for electricity storage are hydrogen, methane and ammonia. Using life cycle assessment, we determine and compare the environmental impacts of 1 kWh of dispatchable electricity produced by the two pathways on seven impact categories. There was not one single pathway that had the most environmental benefits on all seven impact categories. Of the Power-to-Fuel-to-Power systems assessed the use of hydrogen for storage has the lowest environmental impact in all categories. Additionally, all the Power-to-Fuel-to-Power systems have a lower environmental impact on climate change, photochemical ozone formation and fossil resource depletion compared with the natural gas with carbon capture and storage system. The natural gas with carbon capture and storage system has a lower environmental impact on particulate matter formation, marine eutrophication and mineral resource scarcity. Our work is complemented by an analysis of pathways from a net-zero-direct-CO2 to a life-cycle net-zero-CO2-equivalent power system which is actually climate neutral, achieved by direct air capture of the residual CO2 from the atmosphere. However, this leads to an increase in all other impact categories of 11% for the Power-to-Fuel-to-Power systems and 21% in the natural gas combustion with carbon capture and storage system. A system sizing study also highlights the very low capacity factors of the capital employed for electricity storage, raising the point of economic feasibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104
JournalFrontiers in Energy Research
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • chemical energy carriers
  • CO based fuels
  • CO capture and storage
  • direct air capture
  • energy storage
  • hydrogen
  • intermittent renewable energy supply
  • net-zero-CO-emissions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Economics and Econometrics

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