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Carbon Solutions

Capture and storage tech developments secure coal’s future.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2009

and startup is planned for the first quarter of 2011. It will use MHI’s technology, which also uses a solvent to capture the carbon at the end of the combustion cycle.

Courtright sees the next scale-up for CCS being in the 200-MW to 300-MW range. “Alstom is thinking about this for Mountaineer, but it also recently announced a project with TransAlta in Canada, so it could happen anywhere,” he continues. “The keys are to have a plant that is operating very efficiently and has a reasonable enough storage capability at the plant location.” EPRI’s research suggests that carbon-sequestration locations in the United States have enough capacity to meet the requirements of about 60,000-MW of generating capacity.

As to the challenges of CCS going forward, two are of particular concern. One relates to capture technology’s installation costs. While costs would be significant for a new coal-fired plant, they are even higher for a retrofit at an existing plant. “I think CCS will end up being a combination of both retrofits and new plant installations in the future,” Courtright says. “As we prove the technology and bring the cost down to the target levels we want, and if carbon legislation does pass, there may be some early retrofits to get the most value out of these existing assets.” At the same time, he says there also could be some new locations coming on board.

A closely related challenge is the problem of parasitic energy demand—the energy required to operate CCS capture technology at a plant. “Our goal is to get down to the 10-percent to 15-percent range, which would be a very economically attractive option,” Courtright says.

As EPRI sees it, CCS is not the end-all and be-all of carbon management, but it is a significant component. “It’s important to have a full portfolio of options in order to meet the targets of CO 2 reduction,” Courtright says. “CCS will need to be an important part of this.”

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