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Carbon Solutions

Capture and storage tech developments secure coal’s future.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2009

The MRCSP effort—including its successes and its failures—illustrates the variety of groups working on CCS technologies. In addition to the vendor companies and utilities, the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, serves as leader of the MRCSP while also working on individual companies’ CCS projects. Battelle was involved in AEP’s Mountaineer project by itself (AEP being a Battelle client), and in the Duke and FirstEnergy projects in its role as leader of the MRCSP. The MRCSP is working on CCS projects in nine states, according to Charles McConnell, vice president of carbon management for Battelle.

“This project development can be defined as geological study work, mapping, and data gathering,” he says. The MRCSP is now in the process of developing a Phase III project, which will involve a significant increase in the amount of CO 2 introduced into a geological formation, with a target of 1 million tons over a four-year period. Battelle currently is evaluating several sites for this Phase III injection, and will make that announcement by the end of 2009.

What will be the future of sequestration? The ideal, of course, would be for every power plant that emits CO 2 to sit atop a geological formation that allows safe and permanent sequestration. And in fact some such plants exist, such as AEP’s Mountaineer and Duke’s East Bend. However, most power plants aren’t so fortunate, such as We Energies’ Pleasant Prairie.

“Liquid CO 2 will need to be transported to other locations, where it can be sequestered,” McConnell says. “During pilot projects, this is being done via truckload, because the quantities aren’t that large.” However, as a permanent solution, Battelle envisions a network of pipelines, most of which will be in and around the Midwest, particularly the Ohio Valley. One benefit of this, according to McConnell, is that not only are large numbers of the nation’s coal plants located in the Midwest and South regions, but most of the geological formations that can accept CO2 sequestration are also in these regions, meaning that while CO 2 may need to be pipelined from some plants to other sequestration locations, the distances won’t be as long as they might be if plants were located in other parts of the country.

“We believe that the economic decisions of running pipelines for the whole commercial framework will become a reality when the legislative framework and policies come together,” McConnell says. “In the meantime, we are working hard at advancing the technology and the experience.” For these projects, Battelle is focusing on locations that have both the source (the plant) and the geology (sequestration reservoirs).

Another important player in CCS development is the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). “We are involved in a number of CCS projects, some of which use chilled ammonia, some of which are using other technologies,” says Hank Courtright, a senior vice president at EPRI. For example, EPRI is working on one project in cooperation with Southern Co. and MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) that’s about the same size as the Mountaineer project. It’s located at Southern’s Plant Barry in Alabama,