Carbon Capture R&D Gets $8 Billion Boost

Issue 4 and Volume 113.

Support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) research and development activity is increasing. According to Emerging Energy Research, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the stimulus bill—will increase federal support for demonstration and deployment of CCS projects by 70 percent to more than $8 billion.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act boosts federal support for CCS by 70 percent to $8 billion. Click here to enlarge image

Further boosting the industry’s prospects, several states have introduced or passed CCS legislation in the past few months. And the U.S. and Canada have pledged to increase cooperation on research and demonstrations of CCS at coal-fired plants.

The U.S./Canadian border has already been crossed successfully with the Weyburn Project, one of the best-known CCS projects. From the Great Plains Synfuels Plant (GPSP) in North Dakota—among the only commercial-scale coal gasification plants in the U.S. that manufacture natural gas—CO2 is piped to EnCana Corp. in Saskatchewan to enhance oilfield productivity. According to Canadian press reports, this is one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas sequestration projects.

Several different carbon capture technologies show promise.

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) researchers developed a method to reduce the cost of making solid sorbents that capture CO2 in large-scale gas-solid processes.

Patented by NETL and licensed to Powerspan Corp., the post-combustion, regenerative process uses an ammonia-based solution to capture CO2 from flue gas and release it in a form that is ready for safe transportation and permanent geological storage. Called the ECO2 process by Powerspan, it is suitable for new or existing coal plants.

Siemens has developed a scrubbing technology based on amino acid salt formulations for post-combustion carbon capture. The company says it expects to start engineering work for a demonstration project in July 2010. Siemens also has an alliance with Powerspan to implement the ECO2 technology.

Pierre Gauthier, president of Alstom’s North American operations, told Power Engineering in February his company is encouraged by early test results from oxy-firing technology used to capture carbon from coal-fired power plants. Initial work by Alstom had favored a chemical approach to the carbon capture challenge, either through amine or chilled ammonia.

The oxy-firing technology may be suitable for a range of applications, including retrofits and installations on conventional and circulating fluidized bed boilers. Gauthier said Alstom is seeking a host for a 100 MW to 200 MW test. He said carbon capture technology could be ready for commercial use by 2015.

Babcock Power Inc. and ThermoEnergy Corp. are working to commercialize a new carbon capture power plant design. According to the companies, the ThermoEnergy Integrated Power System (TIPS) technology uses a different thermodynamic approach in power plant design. Based on high pressure oxy-fuel chemistry, TIPS combines the combustion of carbonaceous fuels (including coal, oil, natural gas, municipal waste and biomass) into energy with near-zero air emissions and no smoke stack. In addition, it captures CO2 in pressurized liquid form ready for sequestration or reuse, such as enhanced oil recovery.

Carbon capture demonstration projects underway or in the planning stages include the following:

NRG Energy plans to test Powerspan’s ECO2 method at its W.A. Parish plant near Sugar Land, Texas. The demonstration at the eight-unit facility (four of which burn coal) is expected to be operational in 2012. Tests will be conducted on flue gas release equivalent to a 125 MW power station. The project estimates CO2 capture at 1 million tons annually, which will be used for enhanced oil recovery.

FirstEnergy’s 413 MW R.E. Burger facility was selected in 2006 as a carbon sequestration test site by the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP), one of seven regional organizations set up by the Department of Energy (DOE). The objective at the site is injection testing in deep saline reservoirs. The project is well into the field work phase and will run through 2009.

Carbon dioxide from a DTE Energy natural gas processing plant near Gaylord, Mich., is being injected into the Michigan Basin by an MRCSP team, led by Battelle of Columbus, Ohio. Building on an initial injection project of 10,000 metric tons, the partners have begun injecting 50,000 additional tons of CO2 into the formation. When completed, the total 60,000 metric ton injection will be among the largest deep saline reservoir injections in the U.S. to date.

North Dakota generation and transmission cooperative Basin Electric will start building a 120 MW CCS system demonstration project using Powerspan’s ECO2 technology at its 900 MW, two-unit Antelope Valley coal plant. Because Antelope Valley is close to the GPSP (which is owned and operated by a Basin Electric subsidiary) the infrastructure needed to pipe CO2 to Canada is already in place.

An Alstom chilled ammonia carbon capture pilot demonstration project at We Energies’ Pleasant Prairie Power Plant in Kenosha, Wisc., has been in operation since March 2007. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will provide analysis of the one-year project. Results should be published in mid-2009. We Energies says the next carbon capture project will be six times the size of Pleasant Prairie and will expand its scope to demonstrate storage.

American Electric Power is testing the Alstom chilled ammonia process at its 1,799 MW Northeastern plant in Oklahoma. The project will involve one of two coal units and should be operational by 2012. The CO2 will be used for enhanced oil recovery.

Five electric utilities have joined the EPRI to host studies examining the effects of retrofitting advanced amine-based post-combustion CO2 capture technology to existing coal-fired power plants. Sites include Edison Mission Group’s 1,536 MW Powerton Station in Pekin, Ill.; Great River Energy’s 1,100 MW Coal Creek Station in Underwood, N.D.; Nova Scotia Power’s two 160 MW units at the Lingan Generating Station in Lingan, Nova Scotia; Intermountain Power Agency’s 950 MW Intermountain Generation Station in Delta, Utah; and the 176 MW circulating fluidized bed boiler Unit 1 at FirstEnergy’s Bay Shore Plant in Oregon, Ohio. The five studies will be conducted in 2009 and a report for each site will include an assessment of the most practical CO2 capture efficiency configuration and an estimate of costs.

The Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC) and the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) were awarded a $66.7 million contract from the DOE to conduct a Phase III large-scale sequestration demonstration project in the Mt. Simon Sandstone. Working with the Archer Daniels Midland Co., which is providing the CO2 from its Decatur, Ill., ethanol plant, the project is designed to confirm the geologic formation’s ability to accept and store 1 million metric tonnes of CO2 over three years. Carbon dioxide sequestration and injection is scheduled to start in October and should conclude in 2012. The MGSC is another of the seven regional partnerships created by the DOE to advance CCS nationwide.—Nancy Spring

Interest Grows in Solar

A recent spate of utility-scale solar project announcements indicates a continued—and growing—interest in solar power by U.S. utilities.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) technologies are both being used. A Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) report on PV generation for regulated utilities released in February said the sum of large, utility-owned distributed PV announcements in 2008 was more than twice the total installed capacity in 2007. With an estimated 30 GW of solar power in California, Nevada and Western Texas, CSP is expected to play a big role in the U.S. generation portfolio.

But the economic crisis took its toll on the sector and investment in utility-scale solar power projects stalled toward the end of 2008. Now, energized by the Obama administration’s support for clean energy and its call for climate control legislation—and a possible federal renewable portfolio standard—solar is attractive again. With tax credits and stimulus package money, solar is also becoming more economically viable.

Municipal utility Austin Energy announced a 30 MW PV solar project that could be online by 2010. Project cost was lowered through federal investment tax credits. Austin Energy and Gemini Solar Development, the company that will build, own and manage the solar facility, are also assessing funding and say they will apply for funding that potentially might be available through the federal stimulus package.

Austin Energy says the new project would be the country’s largest solar system. But Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) is right on its heels. FPL plans to complete the 25 MW DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center at the end of this year. The facility will consist of 90,000 PV panels on 180 acres of land and is one of three new solar facilities FPL is building in Florida. The utility’s goal is to add up to 110 MW of solar energy capacity.

On the West Coast, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) plans a five-year program to develop up to 500 MW of PV power in its northern and central California service area with up to 250 MW of utility-owned PV generation. An additional 250 MW is to be built and owned by independent developers under a “streamlined regulatory process.” PG&E hopes for California Public Utilities Commission approval later this year.

Last year, the eight-year extension of investment tax credits for solar projects did little for the industry because investors had no money to spend. Now, “solar friendly” provisions in the Recovery and Reinvestment Act have given the sector new life. More than a dozen new CSP projects are being planned in the U.S., according to a Jan. 31 USA Today article. SEPA says it is aware of 4,000 MW of CSP contracts.

Arizona Public Service’s 280 MW CSP plant is back on track and expected to come online in 2011. PG&E is involved in two CSP projects: a 553 MW plant to be constructed in the Mojave Desert and a 177 MW plant planned for San Luis Obispo county.

In February, Southern California Edison announced what it called “the world’s largest solar deal” with BrightSource Energy. The agreement calls for seven CSP projects for a total of 1,300 MW.

BrightSource Energy’s CEO, John Woolard, said BrightSource has accumulated land for 22 GW of solar, which should keep the company busy through 2016. Because of the quality of the solar resource, he said “the U.S. is a fantastic market for CSP.”

NV Energy is planning to develop solar power facilities in southern Nevada. The first project could be a 250 MW solar trough plant that includes solar thermal storage. The CEO of the company’s partner on the projects, Solar Millennium, said that with support from the stimulus bill, construction could start in 2010.

Hybrid solar/natural gas projects are also on the drawing table. NextEra Energy Resources, formerly FPL Energy, is planning a 75 MW hybrid solar plant. The company broke ground in December 2008 on the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which the company says will be one of the world’s first hybrid solar energy plants and the second largest solar thermal plant in the nation. The Martin Center will generate 75 MW of solar energy once it is fully operational in 2010.

Independent power producer NRG Energy is entering the solar field for the first time. Plans call for combining NRG’s construction capabilities and operating expertise with eSolar’s modular, scalable solar thermal power technology to build up to 11 solar power plants. Total generation capacity is estimated to be up to 500 MW in California and the Southwest. The first plant could go online in 2011.

While near-term prospects for utility-scale solar power projects look promising, according to some reports, in the long term, solar has a pretty good shot at substantially increasing its share of U.S. electricity capacity.—Nancy Spring

Renewable Energy World Convenes in Las Vegas


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Roberto Denis, senior vice president of Energy Supply for NV Energy (left) joins Richard Baker, senior vice president of PennWell Corp. (right) to cut a ribbon opening the sixth annual Renewable Energy World North America Conference & Expo in Las Vegas March 10. Also on hand (and pictured to the right of the TV cameraman) were Julia Hamm, executive director Solar Electric Power Association; Denise Bode, CEO American Wind Energy Association; Linda Church-Ciocci, executive director National Hydropower Association; Rhone Resch, president and CEO Solar Energy Industries Association; and Karl Gawell, executive director Geothermal Energy Association.

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Part of the record-setting crowd that attended the sixth annual Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo in Las Vegas on March 10-12. More than 4,000 people attended the conference and exhibition. The exhibit floor was the largest to date, with more than 220 companies taking part and representing all forms of utility-scale renewable energy, including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectricity. Plans are underway for the 2010 event, which takes place in Austin, Texas from Feb. 23-25. For more information on the 2010 event visit www.renewableenergyworld-events.com.

Back to the FutureGen

A report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) urges the Department of Energy to reconsider a 2008 Bush administration decision withdrawing support for the FutureGen clean coal project. GAO cited math errors that it said misrepresented the project’s cost escalations by a half billion dollars.

The report, released March 11, says DOE should reexamine its 2008 decision withdrawing support of the near-zero emissions power plant, which was to be built at Matoon, Ill. The math error led DOE to say FutureGen had nearly doubled in cost—a cost increase the Bush administration (which initially proposed the project) deemed too expensive. In ending its support, the Bush administration said the cost had nearly doubled to $1.8 billion from $950 million. GAO auditors in March said FutureGen’s cost had risen to $1.3 billion, up 39 percent.

According to the GAO, the Energy Department mistakenly compared two numbers that should not have been used together. One cost estimate was made in so-called “constant dollars,” reflecting the purchasing power of a dollar in 2005. The other used dollars as they would have been spent over the following few years, worth less each year because of inflation.

In January 2008, after investing $174 million in FutureGen, the Bush administration withdrew its support. Staff of a House of Representatives committee reported finding internal communications that suggested Energy Department officials were looking for reasons to kill the project.

The GAO report said the overall goals of the original and restructured FutureGen programs are similar. Both programs aim to produce electricity from coal with near-zero emissions using carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques. They also aim to make that process economically viable for the electric power industry. However, the two programs would differ in achieving their goals resulting in what knowledgeable stakeholders said were two largely distinct programs that could affect aspects of CCS’s commercial advancement.

Both programs’ goals for storing CO2 and limiting other emissions, such as mercury and sulfur, are also similar. One difference is that the requirement for the amount of carbon to be captured has been reduced from 90 percent in the original program to 81 percent in the restructured program.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he will consider renewing DOE’s support for FutureGen, but that changes will be needed. He did not, however, immediately say what those changes would be.—Steve Blankinship

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Kevin Gillespie (above) is plant manager at the El Dorado Energy Center’s 10 MW thin-film photovoltaic installation near Boulder City, Nev. The facility came online in December 2008 and provides electricity for Sempra Energy. The plant could expand to 50 MW under plans currently being discussed. The solar farm is grid connected through the switchyard at the adjacent 500 MW El Dorado station, a natural gas-fired, air-cooled facility also owned by Sempra Energy. See a video tour of the El Dorado PV facility by visiting www.power-eng.com and clicking on the Media Center link. Power Engineering magazine photo.

Business Briefs

The Siemens Energy and Industry sectors signed an agreement with Fluor Corp. to strengthen cooperation between the two companies. The alliance names Siemens as a preferred supplier to Fluor and its global projects business. In the course of the expected long-term cooperation, the two companies will coordinate their work and planning processes to better meet the increased project requirements. The focus will be on minimizing risk and accelerating major project planning and implementation processes.

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to gather self-reported coal ash impoundment data from electric utilities nationwide, conduct assessments, order cleanup and repairs and develop new regulations in response to the coal ash spill December 2008 at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant. As many as 300 coal ash impoundments might exist in the U.S. according to EPA estimates. A retaining wall breach at the coal-fired Kingston Fossil power plant released more than a billion gallons of wet coal ash onto nearly 400 acres of land December 22, causing as much as $825 million in damage, according to TVA. In response, the EPA ordered utilities with surface coal ash impoundments or similar units to provide information about the structural integrity of their facilities.

For news headlines updated throughout the business day, visit Power Engineering online at www.power-eng.com

Projects & Contracts

Idaho Power Co. plans to build a 300 MW natural gas-fired power plant. The $427 million Langley Gulch Power Plant is slated for completion in December 2012, pending approval from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The plant will generate baseload power using combined-cycle combustion turbine technology. Idaho Power, a unit of IdaCorp, Inc., owns 17 hydroelectric plants, two natural gas-fired plants and shares ownership of three coal-fired plants.

Duke Energy’s plan to build a 66-turbine wind power project near Casper, Wyo., will start construction this spring following the unanimous approval of the project’s permit. The Campbell Hill project will generate 99 MW when it comes on line at the end of the year, according to a company press release. Duke Energy expects to receive the permit to build the Campbell Hill project from the state in April, after which construction will begin. PacifiCorp, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming, will buy all of the power from the project as part of a 20-year agreement.

For news headlines updated throughout the business day, visit Power Engineering online at www.power-eng.com

Look for These Articles Online

  • “Are nuclear costs really that high?,” Part II published March 17 in Power Engineering magazine’s weekly e-newsletter.
  • “Top 10 Ideas from Renewable Energy World,” published March 17 in Power Engineering magazine’s weekly e-newsletter.
  • “Special Report: The Federal Economic Stimulus,” newscast video published March 17 in Power Engineering magazine’s weekly e-newsletter.
  • “Will renewables be the law of the land?,” published March 10 in Power Engineering magazine’s weekly e-newsletter.
  • “Are nuclear costs really that high?,” Part I published March 10 in Power Engineering magazine’s weekly e-newsletter.
  • “What the stimulus offers power generation,” published March 3 in Power Engineering magazine’s weekly e-newsletter.
  • “Renewable Focus,” a monthly digest of recent news, reports and events published March 3 in Power Engineering magazine’s e-newsletter.
  • Interactive map showing U.S. carbon dioxide emission sources, published March 3 in Power Engineering magazine’s e-newsletter.
  • “Carbon regulation coming soon, EPA says,” published February 24 in Power Engineering magazine’s e-newsletter.
  • “Alstom exec says oxy-firing shows promise for CCS,” published February 24 in Power Engineering magazine’s e-newsletter.
  • “Video tour of North America’s largest air-cooled power plant,” published February 24 in Power Engineering magazine’s e-newsletter.

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