Despite cost, power producers planning plants with carbon captur - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Despite cost, power producers planning plants with carbon capture

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Is commercial-scale carbon capture and storage getting started in spite of a soft economy and cheap natural gas?


When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed on March 27 to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil fuel plants, it listed 15 plants that are close enough to construction that they would be exempted.

Six of the 15 plan to use carbon capture and storage, or CCS. That's the set of technologies that many believe is needed to keep coal viable as nations move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but that always seems to be the subject of a canceled demonstration project or a forever-delayed full-scale plant.

EPA's list of six CCS projects on the verge is impressive because so far, according to Howard Herzog, senior research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative, there are no utility power generators using CCS at the commercial scale.

The list is also surprising. At a time when persistently cheap natural gas is edging coal out of the power generation market, a new coal-fired power plant is hard to justify. But one with expensive CCS — that hasn't even been mandated — is the most expensive way to go.

In the New Source Performance Standard, the 15 plants are termed "transitional." The EPA is considering exempting them from its proposed 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour emissions standard because they have received air quality permits; although they have not begun construction, they would dodge the requirement if construction started within 12 months.

Specifics for the six facilities, based on information The State Journal found on project websites and other documents, are below.

One notable aspect of the expense of carbon capture is illustrated here in the difference between gross and net generation capacities, where available. That reflects power used at the plant. It's a difference that, before significant environmental controls, was so small it wasn't worth mentioning. But it becomes quite large when carbon capture is involved — amounting, for example, to 22 percent of power generated in the case of the Trailblazer Energy Center.

  • Tenaska's 765-megawatt gross, 600-mw net Trailblazer Energy Center near Sweetwater, Texas, is a supercritical pulverized coal plant designed to capture up to 90 percent of the CO2, or 5.75 million tons per year, one of the world's largest planned CCS projects. CO2 is to be piped to the Permian Basin in Texas and sold to be pumped into depleting oil fields for enhanced oil recovery. Cost: more than $3 billion. No published in-service date.
  • Tenaska's 716-mw gross, 602-mw net Taylorville Energy Center in central Illinois is an integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC, power plant, more efficient than conventional pulverized coal technology. The developers plan to capture more than 50 percent of the CO2 and expect to sell it for enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, but will develop geologic storage in saline formations as a back-up. At one time, cost was estimated at $3.5 billion and in-service date at early 2014.
  • The Texas Clean Energy Project under development by Summit Power would be a 400-mw gross, 245-mw net IGCC plant that will capture 90 percent of its CO2 for EOR in the Permian Basin and also will produce urea for the fertilizer market. Project cost estimated at one point at $2.4 billion. In-service: late 2014.
  • The Erora Group's approximately 720-mw gross, 565-mw net Cash Creek Generation IGCC plant near Owensboro, Ky. will capture about 2 million ton of CO2 per year, to be sold for EOR. Cost listed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory at $1.5 billion. In-service date unclear.
  • Developers of Refined Energy Holdings' Power County Advanced Energy Center, a 520-mw IGCC plant planned for southeast Idaho aim to contribute to the production of fertilizer and to capture 58 percent of the plant's CO2 emissions and sell it for EOR. Project cost has been estimated at $2 billion. In-service date unclear.
  • EmberClear Corp.'s 270-mw net Good Spring IGCC plant would be sited in northeastern Pennsylvania. Original project developer Future Ventures planned to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Cost and in-service date unclear.

The seriousness of the expense hurdle for CCS at this time is illustrated by a plant not listed by the EPA because it's further along than these. Southern Company's $2.8 billion, 582-mw net Kemper County IGCC Project in Mississippi would capture 65 percent of its CO2 for EOR. With construction already under way, a court sent the project approval back to the state Public Service Commission following a legal challenge over whether the cost is justified.


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