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NRG and Powerspan Announce Large-Scale Demonstration of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) for Coal-Fired Power Plants

Layout of an integrated ECO-ECO2 installation for pollution control and carbon capture. Click to enlarge.

NRG Energy, Inc. and Powerspan Corp. will work together to demonstrate at commercial scale Powerspan’s ammonia-based carbon dioxide capture technology, called ECO2 (earlier post) from a conventional coal-fired electric power plant.

Under a memorandum of understanding, NRG and Powerspan will design, construct, and operate a 125-MW CO2 capture facility at the WA Parish Plant and supply the captured CO2 for safe transportation and permanent geological storage in order to demonstrate the technical, economic, and environmental performance of a large-scale CCS system that potentially could be deployed on existing coal-fueled generating facilities globally.

NRG will work with government and non-government entities to provide additional funding for the project.

To date, CO2 capture demonstrations on coal-fueled power plants have been conducted only at a pilot scale of 1 to 5 MW.  This carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) demonstration is expected to capture and sequester about one million tons of CO2 annually, ranking it among the world’s largest CCS projects and potentially the first to achieve commercial scale capture and sequestration from an existing coal-fueled power plant.

Once captured, the CO2 is expected to be used in enhanced oilfield recovery operations in the Houston area. Powerspan’s ECO2 demonstration facility will be designed to capture 90% of incoming CO2 and is expected to be operational in 2012.

According to research conducted by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and others on the use of aqueous ammonia systems such as ECO2 for absorption of CO2, the traditional monoethanolamine (MEA) process for CO2 removal suffers from low CO2 loading capacity (kg CO2 absorbed per kg absorbent); high equipment corrosion rate; amine degradation by other flue gas constituents, which requires a high absorbent makeup rate; and high energy consumption during absorbent regeneration. By comparison, aqueous ammonia processing has higher loading capacity; does not pose a corrosion problem; does not degrade in a flue gas environment, minimizing absorbent makeup; requires much less energy to regenerate; and costs much less than MEA.

The ECO2 technology is suitable for retrofit to the existing coal-fueled, electric generating fleet as well as for new coal-fueled plants. The regenerative process is readily integrated downstream with Powerspan’s patented Electro-Catalytic Oxidation, or ECO, process for multi-pollutant control of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury, and fine particulate matter from power plants.

Under a cooperative research and development agreement announced in May 2004, Powerspan is collaborating with the US Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory on the development of the CO2 removal process for coal-fueled power plants. The CO2 capture takes place after the NOx, SO2, mercury and fine particulate matter are captured. Once the CO2 is captured, the ammonia-based solution is regenerated to release CO2 and ammonia. The ammonia is recovered and sent back to the scrubbing process, and the CO2 is in a form that is ready for geological storage. Ammonia is not consumed in the scrubbing process, and no separate by-product is created. The process can be applied to both existing and new coal-fueled power plants and is particularly advantageous for sites where ammonia-based scrubbing of power plant emissions is employed.

In August, BP Alternative Energy and Powerspan Corp. announced they would work together to develop and commercialize the ECO2 technology.

Initial pilot scale testing of the ECO2 technology is scheduled to begin in early 2008 at FirstEnergy’s R.E. Burger Plant.  This pilot will process a 1-megawatt (MW) slipstream drawn from the outlet of the 50-MW Burger Plant ECO commercial unit.  It will be designed to capture 90% of incoming CO2 (20 tons of sequestration-ready CO2 per day).  The pilot will provide CO2 to the Department of Energy-sponsored Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) project for on-site sequestration in an 8,000 foot well, drilled at the Burger Plant in early 2007.




We're saved. It can't be long before that 20 tons a day becomes 20 million tons a day world wide. No mention of an odour problem which you'd expect.


Promising. Now if instead of (in addition to) the underground storage idea the offending CO2 would be cycled through algal bioreactors - at least three "birds in hand" will be achieved.


Cycling through algae doesn't help the climate if the ultimate use puts the carbon back in the atmosphere (though it will reduce demand for fuels like petroleum).  Only cutting the total use of non-sequestered fossil fuel systems does that.


Actually having the Carbon absorbed into algae does help the environment, it doesn't solve the problem, just lessen it. Using carbon more than one time before release lessens the amount released, hence problem lessened not solved.


No, it helps nothing.  If you capture carbon and pump it into the ground but burn X pounds of carbon for motor fuel, you have X pounds emitted.  If you instead turn the captured carbon into algae and then biofuel containing X pounds of carbon, you still have X pounds emitted.



A. I think Andy meant to compare using algae bioreactors to just letting the CO2 escape through the smokestacks (as we are doing now).

B. I still think you are wrong. It's not like the CO2 that would be pumped into the ground is directly becoming motor fuel. It's just helping us capture more petroleum, which still has to be processed. If you added all the inputs of capturing the CO2 with this new process, shipping/pumping it underground, pumping new oil, transporting it to a refinery, and refining it (not including distribution, as that would occur with the algae bioreactors anyway), I'd be very surprised if that resulted in the same amount of CO2 being consumed as compared to biofuel from algae.


And considering that the huge number (200 plus) coal fired power plants coming on line over the next several years in Asia and India have zero CO2 sequestration in their design - growing algae capable of lipid and or H2 production, plus residual animal feed, plus the cleansing of coal emissions - seems a significant plus. Of course we are talking about containing a greenhouse gas that comprises in total only .0373 (2004) percent of our atmosphere.


richard schumacher

CCS is a green figleaf. Given the current observed rate of CO2 increase in the atmosphere we would have to capture and permanently store more than one thousand cubic miles of CO2 every year. This is impossible.



Andy was talking about algal motor fuel as some panacea.  My point is that a vehicle with fossil carbon coming out of a tailpipe is a climate problem no matter how circuitous the route the carbon takes.  If we want to fix the problem with biofuels, a better method is to put the biofuel back into the electric powerplant and run the car on electricity.  This creates zero tailpipe emissions and potentially allows a zero-carbon system.


How do we get China and India to grow algae?  If we can just get them to stop building new fossil plants (they could still build e.g. wind farms like crazy) while we spend money on both wind and sequestration, we'll do far more about the problem than algae can.


Yes, it's a big problem, but not quite as big as you think.  It's considerably smaller than the amount of water we pipe around.  The other part is that the cost and effort involved will drive development away from fossil-fired power, reducing the amount of carbon involved.  Since we're running into diminishing returns on oil, natural gas and even coal, planning to use less is just making a virtue out of necessity.


EP: I am suggesting that a global design requirement of any new coal-fired plant include scrubbing technology for particulate,chemical pollutants and CO2 mitigation. In balance. Otherwise it is the whack-a-mole game... Stop fossil pollution in one territory - it pops up in another.

The economics are reasonable. Near zero power plant emissions are the cost of doing business in the fast lane.


Wouldn't really say CCS is really a panacea either.

Especially when you consider that Coal itself isn't really an economically sustainable option, assuming you don't like breathing Uranium, Acid Rain, or Mercury.

$3000/KW without sequestration? Why are we even talking about coal anymore?

richard schumacher

EP, that is an interesting claim. How much water does humanity transport (I'll even give you "pipe" and not "pump") every year? How much of it is under 90 atmospheres of pressure?

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