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Construction begins on DOE-sponsored carbon-capture project at Kentucky Power Plant

Construction began on an innovative $19.5-million carbon-capture pilot, funded in part by the US Department of Energy (DOE), at Kentucky Utilities’ E.W. Brown Generating Station near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The 2 megawatt thermal system will be the first megawatt-scale carbon-capture pilot unit in the Commonwealth.

When completed later this year, the unit will test a system conceived by the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UKCAER) at slipstream-scale to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flue gas of an operating coal-fired power plant.

The UKCAER project, managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, was competitively selected for funding by the Energy Department in 2011. The project is part of DOE’s Carbon Capture Program, which is developing technologies for both pre- and post-combustion carbon capture. The program supports national efforts to mitigate climate change by capturing CO2 at large point sources, such as power plants, and permanently storing the greenhouse gases to prevent its release into the atmosphere.

Three concepts demonstrated in the UKCAER project will include:

  • An advanced solvent system, with lower heat of regeneration, higher capacity, and lower solvent degradation than conventional amine solvents.

  • A two-stage CO2-stripping process that increases solvent working capacity, reduces the energy required for solvent regeneration, and reduces capital costs.

  • An integrated cooling tower that recovers energy from the carbon-capture system and improves power plant efficiency.

The system will use a sampling port to redirect a portion of the power plant’s flue gas just before it enters the stack. The redirected gas will be shunted into modules where it will react with an advanced liquid solvent to extract COCO22.

The gas stream, now carrying less than 1% CO2, will exit the modules and return to the stack. The liquid solvent, carrying the removed CO2, will be put through a two-stage process to strip the CO2 from the solvent, producing a concentrated stream of CO2. The solvent will then be recycled to the modules to process more flue gas, while so-called “waste heat” from the carbon-capture system will be recovered in the cooling tower. This robust system integration will improve the power plant’s cooling-tower and steam-turbine efficiency.

The Energy Department is contributing $14.5 million for the 5-year project. A total of nearly $5 million will be provided by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America (Basking Ridge, NJ), the University of Kentucky, the Electric Power Research Institute, the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, and the Carbon Management Research Group. The Carbon Management Research Group comprises government agencies, electric utilities, and research organizations; current members include LG&E and KU Energy (Louisville, Ky), Duke Energy (Charlotte, NC), American Electric Power, and the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence.



2 mw of wind or solar would cost $3-4 million and would have minimal operating costs. I'm not sure if this is a fair comparison to the 19.5 million being spent on this project but personally I don't see much future for carbon capture and storage.

Roger Pham

Coal and NG plants can serve as base-load back up for solar and wind. CCS can make it GHG-free and thus acceptable, though higher in cost than solar and wind, so can serve only as backup power generation.

Nick Lyons

Roger: Since solar and wind are not viable without backup, a real-world accounting of their costs will include the cost of the backup. In other words, solar and wind are, by definition, more expensive than coal or NG alone if you want electricity when you need it, not just when the sun shines and/or the wind blows.

The more renewables you put on the grid, the more expensive grid electricity becomes. If you have enough wind/solar generation to produce 100% of demand at times, that means you have to pay for 100% backup generation. Energy storage is even more expensive than generation, so if you go there renewables are even *more* expensive.


I don't know that I've seen any hard figures, but my guess is that CCS would cost at least 5 cents per kwh. If the cost of one of those 10,000 cycle batteries can be brought down to $500 batteries can be brought down to $500/kwh then that would be 5 cents per cycle. I'd bet on the battery.

Nick Lyons

Energy storage for the purpose of dispatching electricity is very expensive compared to just generating electricity when needed. The future belongs to green, safe, low-cost nuclear power generation, which has the potential to put all other power sources out of business. Just because it is expensive to build nuclear power plants now doesn't mean it will always be so. And the fuels (U, Th) are cheap and unlimited, for practical purposes.


Nick, nuclear power was MADE expensive by policy.  Policy can be changed.

Roger Pham

When energy storage for RE is H2 in seasonal scale, the H2 can be used as transportation fuel, or incorporate into waste biomass for synthetic fuels, or used for living space heating by waste heat utilization, then the cost accounting is different and no longer expensive...in fact can be competitive to NG and coal. When FC is used for dual purpose of power and heat, backup for RE electricity is a given.


E-P , I remember that policy being enacted in 1975 when a cartel was formed to allow the Canadian Govt to harvest more of the windfall profits of nuclear energy. (can't let the public have power too cheap !)

Gary, you brought up $500/Kwhr battery storage. Elon Musk's intention is that the imminent building of vertically integrated Gigafactories for Tesla will be an initial attempt to bring lithium cells down to $200/Kwhr and make viable the supply of EVs to the masses. BTW if $150/Kwhr is ever achievable, the gasoline engine becomes a museum piece shortly after.

Looking further ahead some have pointed out that even that accomplishment could turn out to be merely a sideline business. The real thrust will be in energy storage to challenge the electrical utilities - for those who continue to favor the idea of centralised distributed power. Although storage is absolutely essential for wind and solar, there is no reason I can see why nuclear power couldn't benefit also.

Surely there is significant financial advantage to be gained when permitting load levelling to take place such that nuclear reactors could remain at 100% output for the complete duration of their service life, that is until decommissioning becomes necessary ?

Obviously this would allow the displacement of the burning of much fossil fuel.

What has to change is the very idea that it is acceptable to use the oxygen of the air as a resource when it is an absolute necessity to human life.

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