Still Room for Coal in a Carbon-Constrained World

Groundbreaking for the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project

Times are tough for the coal-fired generation sector. Some would argue they’ve never been tougher. This is not just true in the US; Europe is also having hard times.

Wednesday’s COAL-GEN session “Novel Clean Coal Application in a Carbon Constraint Market” explored applications of the latest developments in clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in a carbon-constrained world.

The session’s first speaker, Dr. Hisatome Masatoshi from Japan’s Hisatome Power & Environment Engineering set the scene. He discussed the accelerating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which recently broke 400 ppm. Masatoshi did not advocate for cessation of coal-fired power generation. To the contrary, he said, “We just have to use it more wisely, and that means preventing carbon dioxide emissions.”

Masatoshi advocates a novel thermodynamic cycle developed for fossil fuel plants called Advanced Superimposed Cycle (ASIC), which ‘thermadynamically’ achieves both high net plant efficiency and carbon capture without the need for a carbon capture unit.

IHI Corporation’s Akihiro Komaki presented a detailed update on the Callide Oxyfuel project in Australia, which completed its demonstration phase this March. Although analysis is ongoing, Komaki shared project data, including more than 10,000 hours of oxy-combustion and more than 5,500 hours of carbon capture.

With the completion of the $245 million international joint venture, the Callide Oxyfuel Project will provide a roadmap for the design and construction of large-scale oxy-combustion plants with carbon capture.

Thomas Sarkus, from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, provided an update on the 240-MW Petra Nova project in western Texas. When completed in early 2017, the project will be the world’s largest post-combustion CCS project.

Using a process previously tested in a three-year pilot scale test in Alabama, the project will capture 90 percent of CO2 from an existing power plant. The captured carbon will then be compressed, dried, and transported to an oil field for enhanced oil recovery.

The project utilizes a unique business model. Rather than selling the captured CO2, oil company NRG Energy will take a share of the oil revenue.

Massimo Malavasi of Italian company Itea SpA closed the session, presenting his company’s Flameless Pressurized Oxy-Combustion (FPOC) technology. Originally developed for waste-to-energy applications, it has more recently been demonstrated for carbon capture at a pilot scale of 5 MWth in Italy.

Based on this pilot, Malavasi was able to show that on all key economic indexes, such as efficiency, CAPEX, OPEX and LCOE, his company’s flameless combustion technology was highly competitive against supercritical with an amine scrubber and IGCC, as well as conventional oxy-combustion. The FPOC process is also highly fuel-flexible and so can handle all low -rank coals.

Malavasi said he is interested in working with partners to scale up the process to a 50 MWth pilot, which will be located in a CCS Research Center in Sardinia.

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