Water consumption is an important consideration when evaluating technologies for carbon capture and storage (CCS). It may in fact become a critical factor in certain regions where water is increasingly a source of conflict. For this reason, water consumption has the potential to become a challenging obstacle to adoption of CCS technologies. This analysis seeks to improve understanding of relative water costs of different CCS technology options. It also helps to identify areas where water use may in fact become a challenge and reveal opportunities for technological improvements that can help minimize these challenges.
A life cycle assessment approach was utilized to analyze both the water consumption from carbon capture and storage projects. While there have been previous analyses that have looked at the direct water consumption for some capture processes, there have been few studies that have taken a detailed look at water consumption throughout the complete life cycle of the of electricity production with CCS. This effort expands the system boundaries beyond those of previous analysis while evaluating a range of system configurations to facilitate technology comparison.
The range of system configurations considered in this analysis included both pre and post combustion capture systems and multiple sequestration scenarios. The system boundaries for the analysis include fuel production, fuel transport, combustion, capture, CO2 transport, and storage. Water consumption for conventional fossil fuel systems are also calculated for comparison purposes.
The results show that while all carbon capture technology pathways result in a net increase in water consumption relative to conventional coal generation, the choice of technology, especially capture technology, can play a significant role in minimizing the increase in water consumption. Integrated gasification combined cycle coal plants with carbon capture were found to be significantly more water efficient than either conventional power plants with post combustion capture or plants utilizing oxy-combustion processes. Also, while other stages of the life cycle do consume water, the volumes were small relative to the power plant operations and capture stages.