Air Pollution Control Equipment Services, Nuclear

News Update

Issue 9 and Volume 104.

By Steve Blankinship,
Associate Editor

13 Greenhouse Gas Sequestration Projects Get DOE Funding

DOE’s carbon sequestration research strategy changed dramatically with the announcement of funding for 13 private sector projects. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson predicted the projects will result in real breakthroughs, providing America and the world with a new set of options to help meet the challenges of global climate change. Sequestration research envisions ways to capture greenhouse gases and either store them for centuries or recycle them into useful products.

Richardson characterized the latest commitment a dramatic departure from the agency’s previous approach, which consisted almost exclusively of using federal dollars to fund exploratory ventures. The new projects are larger scale partnerships in which private institutions, industries and universities bear major portions of the costs. DOE is prepared to commit $13.7 million over the next three years to the projects with private sector co-sponsors funding an additional $10 million.

The new goal is to reduce the cost of carbon sequestration to $10 or less per net ton of carbon emissions by 2015. Costs in this range would add less than $0.01/kWh to the average electric bill, making sequestration one of the most affordable options for addressing climate change. Present systems for capturing and storing CO2 are much more expensive, averaging $100 to $300 per ton.

A listing of the projects:

Separation and Capture

  • Development of a high-temperature membrane that can separate CO2 from gases formed when coal is reacted with steam and oxygen in a coal gasifier. The system would be ideal for future power plants in which coal would be gasified instead of burned (Media and Process Technology Co., Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Development a low-cost way to separate CO2 from the flue gas of existing fossil fuel combustion plants with a reusable sodium-based chemical (Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, N.C.)
  • Sequestration of CO2 in geologic formations using enhanced coalbed methane recovery technology to field test the viability of storing CO2 in coal seams in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico and southwestern Colorado (Advanced Resources International, Houston, Texas)
  • Using a nuclear magnetic resonance well-logging technique to identify the most suitable geologic formations for long-term CO2 storage (Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas)
  • Studying deep saline reservoirs in the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountain region to determine how much CO2 can be stored, what happens to the stored gas, and what the environmental risks are (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • Determining how much CO2 can be stored in the Black Warrior coalbed methane region in Alabama and identify other storage sites for mass CO2 sequestration (Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alab.

Ocean Sequestration

  • Using a combination of remotely operated deep sea vehicle technology, time lapse cameras, and other analytical techniques to determine the long-term fate of CO2 injected deep into the ocean. Experiments will also measure the response of deep sea biological organisms and any changes that might occur in the marine environment (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, Calif. – Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.)
  • Conducting the first direct analyses of frozen CO2 deposits known as hydrates on the sea floor (Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

Terrestrial (Soils and Vegetation) Sequestration

  • Evaluation of a reclamation/reforestation program that would sequester carbon in trees on abandoned mine lands in the Appalachian region. The university will also develop a system for trading carbon credits to lower the costs of CO2 terrestrial sequestration to $5/ton of carbon or less. (Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas)

Advanced Concepts

  • Enhancing photosynthesis by attaching photosynthetic organisms to specially designed growths arranged in a “bioreactor” with special lighting to enhance the rate of CO2 conversion (The Ohio University, Athens, Ohio)
  • Developing technologies that use selected species of micro-algae to photosynthesize CO2 from power plant exhaust gases (Physical Sciences Inc., Andover, Mass.)

Modeling and Assessments

  • Developing a state-of-the-art computer model to assess CO2 sequestration options and costs from the local to national level (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Developing a digital database that catalogs CO2 source-to-sequestration-site information in five Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio) (University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.)

Calpine Continues Aggressive Growth

Calpine Corp. continues its dramatic growth via acquisition, new plant development and strategic alliances. The company expects to have more than 40,000 MW of capacity by 2004. Calpine currently has interests in 45 operating power plants with a total net baseload capacity of 4,285 MW, 14 power plants under construction having a net baseload capacity of 6,222 MW, and 18 projects under development with a net baseload capacity of 11,019 MW. In addition to gas-fired generation, Calpine operates 880 MW of geothermal generation at seven sites in California.

Among major activities this summer:

  • Calpine acquired remaining 50 percent interests in the 107 MW Kennedy International Airport Power Plant in Queens, New York, and the 40 MW Stony Brook (Long Island) Power Plant. Calpine initially acquired a 50 percent interest in both facilities in December 1997.
  • Secured the rights to develop, build, own and operate the Freestone Energy Center from Entergy. Freestone is a 1,000 MW gas-fired power facility under development 80 miles south of Dallas, Texas.
  • Announced a strategic alliance with Panda Energy to acquire from Panda the rights to construct, own and operate the Oneta project – a 1,000 MW gas-fired facility in Oklahoma.
  • Acquired SkyGen Energy LLC from Michael Polsky and Wisvest Corp. Calpine acquired three operating facilities, five facilities under construction, 12 late-stage development projects and 16 project-stage development projects. In addition, the company obtained 34 General Electric 7 FA gas turbines to power these projects.
  • Announced plans to build, own and operate a natural gas-fired cogeneration energy center at the BP Amoco chemical facility in Decatur, Alab. The proposed Morgan Energy Center will generate approximately 660 MW in addition to supplying steam for BP Amoco’s facility
  • Secured the rights to develop, build, own and operate the Teayawa Energy Center, a 600 MW natural gas-fired power generating facility near the town of Thermal in Riverside County, Calif.
  • Completed acquisition from Edison Mission Energy of the remaining 50 percent ownership interest in a 150 MW natural gas-fired, combined-cycle cogeneration facility located in Auburndale, Fla. Calpine acquired an initial 50 percent ownership interest in the facility in October 1997.
  • Announced plans to purchase 21 7FB turbines from GE Power Systems. The turbines will produce an additional 5,250 MW of electricity when operated in combined-cycle mode.
  • Agreed to purchase 85 heat recovery steam generators from Nooter/Eriksen, supplementing a previous order of 19 HRSGs.

  • Announced plans to develop, own and construct a natural gas-fired, combined-cycle power generation facility in Haywood County, Tenn. The proposed Haywood Energy Center would be Calpine’s fourth project that will interconnect with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
  • Announced three acquisitions adding 205 billion cubic feet equivalent of proven, natural gas reserves, increasing the company’s proven reserves to 430 bcfe. That is enough gas to fuel 800 to 900 MW of combined-cycle generation at full power production.

Superconductors Poised for Super Feats?

Long viewed as a Holy Grail of energy efficiency, superconductors may be on the verge of delivering the goods with two recent announcements by American Superconductor Corp.

American Superconductor and Rockwell Automation have announced the successful operation of the world’s first 1,000 hp high temperature superconducting (HTS) motor. Developed under the auspices of DOE’s Superconductivity Partnership Initiative, the new motor was designed to use HTS wires instead of copper wires on the rotating shaft of the motor. Studies indicate the HTS wires significantly reduce the size and cost of industrial and ship propulsion motors while increasing electrical efficiency.

Implications for the electric power industry include the fact that electric generators larger than 30 MW involve the same fundamental technology. The market for such machines is more than $2 billion per year worldwide. And since large motors are the workhorses of industry (conventional motors use 25 percent of all electric power generated in industrialized countries), DOE estimates higher efficiency HTS motors could save U.S. industry billions of dollars annually in electrical operating costs.

The company is focusing on the design and development of HTS motors that fully leverage the higher power density of HTS wires, and has already tested key components for its new, patented design for ultra-compact HTS motors. It believes these motors will be much less expensive to manufacture compared with conventional motors that use only copper wires and will be more energy efficient as well. The company expects to have its first 5,000 hp HTS ultra-compact motor ready for testing by early next year. It has already let contracts for manufacture of certain components of this motor, which it sees as the market entry point for HTS engines. The company is working under a U.S. Navy contract on design concepts for 33,000 hp ship propulsion motors.

American Superconductor has also announced, this time in tandem with Wisconsin Public Service Corp., the world’s first commercial superconductor-based solution for power grid reliability. The solution consists of multiple distributed superconducting magnetic energy storage units (SMES) deployed at electrical substations along WPS’ 200-mile northern transmission loop. The units serve as virtual generators, easy to move and instantly inject large amounts of power as grid requirements change.

Uncertainties Remain as Mercury Regulation Deadline Nears

EPA must decide by December if it will regulate the emissions of mercury (Hg) and other metals from utility plants. And although the latest study on the issue by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concludes the health risks to humans from mercury are extremely low, nagging uncertainties continue to plague research and cloud the decision making process.

Electric utilities release up to 50 tons of mercury a year, yet current research does not show a direct link between electric utility mercury emissions and levels of mercury in fish that affect public health.

EPA’s schedule for addressing Hg control for coal-fired utility boilers included the gathering of information from utilities between January 1999 and May of this year. That was followed by NAS review. Regulatory determinations are due in December, and issuance of final Hg control rules, if warranted, must be made by December 2004.

Among the more promising technologies available for mitigating Hg emissions are:

  • Injection of activated carbon upstream of electrostatic precipitators or baghouses;
  • Hydrothermal treatment of coal prior to combustion that converts high grade coals to dried briquettes with lowered sulfur, mercury, chlorine, ash and moisture with heating values 25 percent greater than parent coals;
  • Treatment with bioreactors, possibly suspended in fiber supports. Certain bacteria can degrade toxic organic compounds to produce carbon dioxide and water. Such microorganisms absorb metals onto their cell surface and the metals become a permanent part of their cell structure.

Six research projects into these technologies and closely interrelated subjects are currently underway at The Center for Air Toxic Metals, University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Center.

Strange though it may sound, no discussion of Hg remediation is complete without getting a little nutty – pistachio nutty to be precise. Massoud Rostam-Abadi, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois, along with colleagues at the university and the Illinois State Geological Survey, have found that pistachio shells might be a key ingredient in reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired plants. Tests conducted over four years show that pistachio shells work as well as, if not better than, current commercial products such as activated carbon. They are also less expensive to produce.

Rostam-Abadi and his team investigated the adsorbent qualities of solid mediums including high sulfur coal, discarded tires and nutshells. The substances were exposed to various simulated combustion gas streams and evaluated for their effectiveness in removing two forms of mercury emissions: elemental mercury and mercuric chloride.

“We found that mercury removal was affected by both the properties of the adsorbent and the flue gas compositions,” says Rostam-Abadi. “In one flue gas, the adsorbents were equally effective in removing both forms of mercury. In another flue gas, the tire and pistachio carbons had nearly five times larger capacity for the adsorption of mercuric chloride than their coal-derived counterpart.” The researchers presented their findings at the August meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C.

All the uncertainty is enough to drive regulators and coal-fired plant operators nuts. But while details of EPA’s regulatory determination will not be known until later this year, there are hints that emissions control technology specifically targeted at mercury may not be imposed. In comments made at the ESP/FF Round Table in Charlotte in July, EPA’s Charles Sedman stated that co-control, or multi-pollutant control strategies, will likely be included in the regulations.

Texas Gets 4th Wind Farm

TXU Electric and Gas of Dallas, Texas has selected FPL Energy LLC, a subsidiary of the Florida-based FPL Group, to build, own and operate wind turbines expected to produce enough energy to power 29,000 Texas homes. The nation’s largest wind energy producer, FPL plans to begin construction of the 160 MW project late this year with operation scheduled to begin late next year. The plant, located in the Permian Basin region south of Odessa, Texas, will consist of 242 wind turbines. The machines will be 166 feet tall, weigh 143,000 pounds and have fiberglass blades 76 feet long. The contract calls for FPL Energy to supply 500 million kWh of electricity annually from the site.

TXU initiated a similar wind turbine project near Big Spring, Texas in December of 1998 that includes eight of the tallest wind turbines in the U.S. – 255 feet in height. The other 42 turbines at the Big Spring site are 166 feet tall. Another west Texas wind farm, Delaware Mountain, provides power to Enron, Reliant Energy, and the Lower Colorado River Authority. FPL Energy is also the provider of the 107-turbine, 75 MW wind farm near McCamey in west Texas operated for AEP’s Central & South West. FPL has ownership interest in more than 1,000 MW of wind-powered electric generating facilities in Texas, California, Iowa and Oregon.

The Texas legislature has mandated 2,000 MW of new renewable energy be provided by the state.

Four New Plants

Added to World Nuclear Fleet in 1999

During 1999, four nuclear power plants were added to the world grid, one each in France, India, South Korea and Slovakia. This brings the world total to 433 operating units, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A total of 37 reactors were reported as being under construction in 1999, including seven begun in Asia.

Worldwide, total nuclear-generated electricity amounted to 2,401 TWh in 1999. France and Lithuania remain the most dependent on nuclear power, accounting for 75 percent of each country’s electricity generation. Germany, which plans to phase out nuclear power over the next 30-40 years, relies on nuclear power for about one-third of its electricity supplies. The U.S. and Russia depend on nuclear power for one-fifth and one-seventh of total electricity demand, respectively.

The following table shows the 10 countries with the highest reliance on nuclear power in 1999, along with selected other countries.

EPRI Launches Global Initiative to Generate Clean Coal Power

Citing projections for a more than four-fold increase in worldwide power demand by 2050, EPRI has launched an initiative to accelerate research into producing power from coal worldwide in a cleaner manner and with more flexibility. The initiative is necessary because even with a dramatic increase in the use of renewable power sources, coal – the most abundant fossil fuel on earth – will continue to play a large role in meeting growing needs for electricity in the 21st century.

EPRI projects that meeting such an escalating demand will require the equivalent of building a new 1,000 MW power plant somewhere in the world every two days for 50 years. Driving the need for more power will be population growth and the imperative to raise living standards for billions of impoverished people.

Starting with nine programs, the initiative will mobilize research and development on a number of near-term issues associated with coal. Research will concentrate on advanced power plants that generate electricity from coal with virtually no air pollutant byproducts and with negligible or no net emissions of CO2.

“We expect clean coal technologies such as integrated gasification combined cycles and pressurized fluidized-bed combustion to be competitive with natural gas on a cost-of-electricity basis in the 2010 to 2020 timeframe,” said Stephen Gehl, EPRI’s director of strategic technology and alliances. “The timing for cost-effective carbon sequestration will depend on how vigorously this research is funded.”

The first nine R&D programs in the initiative address both near-term needs such as mitigating boiler problems when burning low-grade coals as well as long-term goals such as developing advanced “powerplex” coal plants that co-produce electric power, hydrogen for fuel cells, and commercial chemicals, all with near-zero emissions and no net CO2.

Five of the nine programs are well defined at this time: ultrasupercritical coal-fired plants,CO2 control options, advanced high efficiency plants, currently unrecoverable lignite in North Dakota and Montana, and real options. The real options program is aimed at evaluating coal R&D investment from a modern business perspective, placing it on an equal footing with the shorter term elements typically associated with gas-fired generation.

The remaining four programs are presently less defined and in the process of being fleshed out: low volatile coal issues, life cycle costing and assessment, preserving coal-fired generation asset value, and slagging, fouling and abrasion problems.

Snake River Dams Will Stay for Now

Despite strong opposition from environmentalists, the Clinton Administration has declared lower Snake River dams will stay in place, at least for the next decade. Touting analysis of the “best available science” for any decision regarding salmon recovery, George Frampton, acting chair of the White House Council of Environmental Quality, explained the factors upon which the administration based its decision.

Frampton said the federal government will not recommend removing the four lower Snake River dams at this time and that the administration rejects the idea that dam removal is the only way to increase salmon population. Studies show fish populations in the Columbia River system remain strong and indications are they will continue to trend upward in coming years. According to jack counts in many parts of the Columbia Basin, huge numbers of returning fish are expected next year, far beyond the good numbers seen so far in 2000. “The ocean turned around in 1998,” says University of Washington researcher Nate Mantua. Wild smolt indexes for Snake River spring chinook have climbed steadily since 1997 when they numbered 160,000. The figure for 1999 was 1.8 million.

Commending the administration for its decision, the National Hydropower Association urged incorporation of the Advanced Hydropower Turbine Systems (AHTS) program into any salmon recovery plans to improve performance of hydroelectric operations. The AHTS research program began in 1994 but funding has just reached $5 million. A modified turbine was tested this year at Bonneville Dam that reduced downstream salmon mortality by as much as 50 percent. A statement released by NHA said new technologies such as AHTS “could dramatically improve survival rates of North American fish while helping the nation’s leading renewable, emissions-free and clean energy resource move towards a more efficient future.”