Carbon capture technologies are improved but remain costly

A comparison of the most promising technologies for advanced carbon capture of coal-fired emissions finds that the processes are still costly, despite improvements. A new report from IHS, titled "Advanced Carbon Capture, SRI Consulting Process Economics Program," examined the technology and economics of 10 processes for post-combustion capture of carbon emissions from electric power generation using pulverized coal.

Advanced oxy-combustion has the potential for the lowest costs of any of the technologies examined, the study noted. The use of corrosion-resistant boiler tubes to eliminate the need for desulfurization in the flue-gas recycle loop has the potential to cut CO2 costs "significantly," the report said. This approach has the added appeal of mitigating sulfur emissions in a “two for the price of one” remediation scheme.

“The scrubbing technologies currently moving through demonstration are very expensive and it’s hard to see how to significantly bring down their cost,” said Michael Arné, senior analyst  and report author. He said some "promising new approaches" are on the drawing board, but are "at least 10 years away.”

Robert LaCount, senior director, climate change and clean energy at IHS CERA, said the processes are costly, particularly in the demonstration stages. He cited a second IHS CERA report that cited lower natural gas prices, technical and regulatory questions for CO2 storage and an uncertain climate-change policy environment as central to CCS’s challenges.

IHS said coal-fired generation accounted for 40 percent of the 20,000 TWh of electricity generated worldwide and three-quarters of all the CO2 emitted by the global power sector.

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