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TransAlta and Alstom to Develop CCS Project in Alberta

TransAlta Corporation and Alstom will work together to develop a large scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility in Alberta, Canada.

The project will use Alstom’s proprietary Chilled Ammonia Process (earlier post) for carbon capture. TransAlta considers the Chilled Ammonia Process as one of the more promising and potentially lowest cost solutions for CCS. TransAlta plans to test the technology at one of its coal-fired generating stations west of Edmonton and reduce current CO2 emissions by one million tonnes per year.

Our project with TransAlta is a key part of our objectives for the early deployment of the technology. There will be no CCS without storage, and we are aware of the favorable geological conditions in Alberta, Canada. That is why we have set this region as a priority for our development efforts.

—Philippe Joubert, Alstom Executive Vice President and President of Alstom Power Systems

The first phase of the overall project, aimed at advancing and improving understanding of CO2 capture and storage technology, will begin this year with engineering, stakeholder relations and regulatory work at a cost of approximately C$12 million. This, and subsequent phases, are subject to partner and government funding, and will continue over the next five years with testing expected to commence in 2012.

TransAlta has also partnered with experts at the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE), part of the University of Calgary, to quantify CO2 sequestration potential in the Wabamum area west of Edmonton. The results, due in January 2009, will provide a scientific assessment of potential sequestration sites in the area surrounding several power plants including their capacity and security.

In the chilled ammonia capture system, flue gas is cooled to 0-10°C, condensing water and removing residual contaminants. This also reduces flue gas volume, increasing the concentration of CO2. This cooled gas then flows to the absorber, which operates at 0-10°C for high CO2 capture and low ammonia emission.

There, the ammonia reacts with CO2 and water to form ammonia carbonate or bicarbonate. Raising the temperature to 120°C or more and pressure to above 20 bar reverses the reaction, generating a high pressure CO2 stream with low moisture and ammonia concentration. The CO2 can then be processed for sequestration.

Alstom’s chilled ammonia process is one of several new processes being explored for post-combustion capture. Research suggests that chilled ammonia-based CO2 capture can remove up to 90% of the CO2 from flue gases. Although there are several proposed techniques that can separate carbon dioxide from the other gases (such as MEA, Mono-Ethanol Amine scrubbing), Alstom’s chilled ammonia process reduces the amount of energy used to capture CO2 (energy loss). Studies by EPRI have indicated that ammonia scrubbing results in a 10% energy loss, while the older MEA (amine scrubbing) cuts generated power by 29%.

Comments

richard schumacher

Carbon capture and sequestration is a green figleaf intended to delay the inevitable abandonment of fossil carbon fuels. Mitigating global warming would require capturing, transporting and storing for at least hundreds of years some 10,000 cubic miles of CO2 every year. This is impossible.

Alain

CCS is certainly not the ultimate solution to the CO2 problem, but it's an interesting beginning. Although I would certainly prefer to keep the fossil carbon underground, even after stopping burning fossils, it could be an important tool. If ccs works well, we could convert biomass (or any organic waste) to hydrogen, and sequester the CO2, that way sequestering CO2 that is released in the past century.

Neil

Richard: Clearly a large scale endeavor, but definitely not impossible. There isn't enough room in depleted oil wells for all of it (although there's enough room there for a good start), but deep saline aquifers do have enough room. The cost is noticeable but not out of the question (I've seen numbers ranging from 1 to 3 cents a kwh). If the additional cost of using coal cleanly makes it more expensive than renewable power, then all we have done is level the playing field and make the power reflect its true cost.

sjc

This seems like a practical way to tackle a present problem. Some might want the world to change over night and they see any small step as delaying that change. I do not think that makes sense.

If this works well, I do not think that you will see more large polluting coal plants being built because they have this technique. Coal plant owners would rather not do this or anything else that costs them profits.

This may be a retrofit method that can be used if it is required. The previous U.S. administration wanted coal power plant owners to upgrade if they planned to expand their plant. The present administration told them to forget all that, expand without any upgrades.

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