Of particular interest to many of my colleagues on our recent trip to Germany was the newly commissioned (Sept. ’08) Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) pilot plant at Schwarze Pumpe in Spremberg – an interest in spite of the general belief among the ranks of my fellow enviros that “clean coal” is a myth.
Clean coal may be a myth, or more accurately a pernicious marketing slogan doggedly pursued by the coal industry, but the abundance of coal and the reality of it as a principal source of the world’s energy cannot be wished away.
Designed and built by Vattenfall, a Swedish power utility operating throughout northern Europe, the 30 megawatt pilot CCS project stands next to the commercial-scale 1600 megawatt coal-fired plant in the state of Brandenburg near the Polish border.
Using the Oxyfuel method of removing nitrogen from the air stream and injecting pure oxygen for the combustion of the fuel (in this case lignite coal), the plant is able to capture more than 95% of its CO2 emissions in the process, described in more detail in a recent post at GlobalWarmingisReal.
Schwarze Pumpe proves the technology and demonstrates the feasibility of capturing nearly all the CO2 emitted from burning coal. Over the next 3 years Vattenfall plans on spending 10 million Euros annually for testing and tweaking operation of the plant, seeking to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Tests using hard coal instead of lignite will also be conducted. As a test facility, the plant does not generate power for the electricity grid, instead selling the steam produced to a neighboring paper mill.
Vattenfall’s future plans for CCS development include a 300 MW demonstration plant at J√§nschwalde, Germany and a full-scale 1000 megawatt plant in operation by 2020.
But despite all this forward movement in CCS technology, the question remains, as we were made painfully aware walking through the oxyfuel plant at Schwarze Pumpe: where will all the captured CO2 go?Click to continue reading »