Secretary Chu’s ‘Game-Changing’ Push to Capture Carbon


WASHINGTON, DC, October 13, 2009 (ENS) – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that $55 million will be made available to develop advanced technologies that can capture carbon dioxide from flue gases at existing coal-fired power plants. This would allow the greenhouse gas they would otherwise emit into the atmosphere to be sequestered or put to beneficial use.

The funding announced today is a direct investment in carbon capture and storage related technologies that will support the Obama administration’s effort to help moderate the effects of CO2 – a major greenhouse gas and contributor to global climate change.

“Today’s announcement will not only help fight climate change, but also create new jobs and help position the United States as a leader in carbon capture and storage technologies for many years,” said Secretary Chu.

“These technologies will not only give us a healthier planet,” he said, “they will strengthen our economy and lay a foundation for a new generation of clean energy jobs.”

The Obama administration has committed to a $4 billion investment in carbon capture and storage, to be matched with $7 billion from U.S. industry – the largest investment by any country.

The nation’s largest industrial trade association issued a statement in support of the $55 million investment announced today.

“Building large-scale, near-zero-emissions power plants will support the continued economic viability of our nation’s manufacturing base, create high-wage sustainable jobs, and continue to improve our global environment,” said Keith McCoy, vice president for energy and resources policy of the National Association of Manufacturers.

“We applaud Secretary Chu’s commitment and urge Congress to continue to fund and expedite vital demonstration projects and the Clean Coal Power Initiative,” said McCoy.

“The goal of carbon sequestration is to permanently store the carbon dioxide, permanent meaning very, very long-term, geological time periods,” said Sally Benson, executive director of the Global Climate and Energy Project and professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University.

The most obvious worry, Benson has said, is that leakage would lead to more global warming, defeating the purpose of carbon storage.

Several Louisiana carbon capture and storage projects already have received $3.1 million in economic stimulus funding from the Department of Energy.

Leucadia Energy and partner Denbury Onshore received $540,000 to demonstrate advanced technologies that will capture and store more than four million tons of CO2 emissions at the proposed Lake Charles co-generation petroleum coke-to-chemicals project, the “Times Picayune” reports. Compressed CO2 will move through a 12-mile pipeline to connect with Denbury’s Green Line pipeline system in Louisiana to be used for enhanced oil recovery in Texas.

The same two companies received a $840,000 grant to capture and sequester CO2 emissions from Mississippi Gasification, a Leucadia affiliate that is building a petroleum coke-to-substitute natural gas plant in Moss Point, Mississippi.

Praxair received $1.7 million to partner with BP Products North America, Denbury Resources and the Gulf Coast Carbon Center for capture and storage of CO2 emissions from an existing hydrogen-production facility in an oil refinery into underground formations for enhanced oil recovery. Emissions will be captured at the BP refinery, and a new pipeline will connect to Denbury’s Green pipeline to transport one million tons of CO2 a year.

To stimulate more such projects, Secretary Chu sent a letter Monday to world energy ministers and other scientific leaders calling for their participation in “an aggressive global effort” to advance carbon capture and sequestration technology to the point where widespread, affordable deployment can begin in eight to 10 years.

“Overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have already caused the climate to change,” wrote Chu, a Nobel Laureate in atomic physics.

Coal is one of the nation’s most abundant energy resources – supplying nearly 50 percent of domestic electricity. Secretary Chu said in the letter to his colleagues that coal accounts for 25 percent of the world’s energy supply and 40 percent of carbon emissions and is likely to be “a major and growing source of electricity generation for the foreseeable future.”

The Department of Energy says the funding announced today will support the development of technologies that can remove 90 percent of the CO2 in a flue gas stream at an estimated 35 percent increase in the cost of electricity.

The funding opportunity is seeking applications for bench-scale and pilot-scale projects in four areas of interest: membranes, solvents, solid sorbents, and condensed-phase capture.

The solicitation is specifically focused on advanced technologies for post-combustion CO2 capture and purification that can be retrofitted to existing pulverized coal power plants.

In the letter, Secretary Chu said the U.S. commitment could bring up to 10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016 “enabling us to evaluate and improve on the technology to make it commercially deployable.”

“We are pursuing a range of options for new coal-fired power plants,” Chu wrote, “from coal gasification to burning coal in an oxygen atmosphere to post-combustion capture – in order to find the most cost-effective approach.”

Chu wrote that the administration’s research investments are expected to produce “game-changing, revolutionary new technologies that could begin to be deployable after 2020.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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