Carbon Capture and Storage not likely to ever be commercial: too expensive, uses up to 30% of the power

[It’s 2016 and CCS still isn’t working, and can never work because the size of the storage area is too large:  “The prospects for carbon capture (e.g., clean coal) are widely discussed. Unfortunately, what is not usually discussed is that capture and condensation of CO2 requires about 25% of the gross starting energy. In addition, the scale of the problem is usually not appreciated. Chu (2009) reported that the world burns 6 billion tons of coal C each year. The volume triples after conversion to CO2 so the storage volume required would be 39,000 km3 per year, which is equal to 600 Niagara Falls.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

2016. Richard Heinberg and David Fridley on Carbon Capture and Storage in “Our renewable future”. Island Press.

Why would implementing CCS be so expensive? Capturing carbon from coal combustion consumes 25 to 45% of the power produced. Add in the energy costs to transport, inject, and manage storage would lead to higher prices for coal-generated electricity and more power plants to provide it.  There are no commercial technologies at this point to capture carbon, so the costs are unknown.  To capture and bury just 38% of carbon from United States coal combustion would require making and installing pipelines, compressors, and pumps on a scale equivalent to the size of the nation’s oil industry.  Bolting CCS technology onto existing power plants is extremely inefficient, ideally CCS would be added to new coal power plants, but that would require replacing 600 current plants.

Austenmarch, I. March 29, 2016. Technology to Make Clean Energy From Coal Is Stumbling in Practice. New York Times.

Although this technology worked in a small demonstration project, it didn’t scale up: “An electrical plant on the Saskatchewan prairie was the great hope for industries that burn coal. In the first large-scale project of its kind, the plant was equipped with a technology that promised to pluck carbon out of the utility’s exhaust and bury it underground, transforming coal into a cleaner power source.  But the $1.1 billion project is now looking like a green dream…plagued by multiple shutdowns, has fallen way short of its emissions targets, and faces an unresolved problem with its core technology. Costs soared, requiring tens of millions of dollars in new equipment and repairs….the system is working at only 45% of capacity, has 8 major problem areas…and not apparent how to resolve some of the problems.  A chart covering the first year of operation showed that the system often didn’t work at all. When it was turned back on after shutdowns for adjustments and repairs, the amount of carbon captured sometimes even dropped.  ]

House 112-179. September 20, 2012. The American initiative part 29: a focus on H.R. 6172. House of Representatives.

[ Excerpts from the 205 page transcript of the hearing follow ]

Key points about Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) clean coal technology:

  • Large-scale commercialization remains years, if not decades, away
  • It is too expensive: EPA and DOE’s National Energy Technology Lab estimates that applying CCS to new coal-based units would increase the cost of electric power by 80%
  • CCS technology is in an early stage of development, so not a single CCS developer in the world can guarantee its technology will work at commercial scale, and without such a guarantee, power plant operators will not invest in CCS technology.
  • CCS reduces the EROEI substantially: Many of the current pilot projects estimate the parasitic load and cycle efficiency penalties to be at least 25 or 30% of a generating station output. So if CCS technology were retrofitted to an existing 2,000 MW coal-fired station the output from the plant would be reduced by 500 to 600 MW at a minimum.
  • Finding enough storage will be difficult
  • Very serious questions remain regarding the implications injection processes will have on mineral and property rights, monitoring C02 plumes across property lines or state boundaries, and the verification systems necessary to ensure long term monitoring to be sure no CO2 is escaping

ED WHITFIELD, KENTUCKY. Today we will be focusing on H.R. 6172, which would prohibit EPA’s proposed New Source Performance Standard for greenhouse gases from being finalized until it is technologically and economically feasible.

I don’t think that anyone is not aware of the fact that this administration has a strong bias against coal. We all are familiar with the President’s comments in San Francisco when he was running for President that people would be able to build coal plants if he is elected President but they would be bankrupt. Yesterday, many of you read about Alpha Resources closing down eight coalmines, 1,200 jobs. Patriot Coal recently announced they were going into bankruptcy. Murray Coal up in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois has announced they are going to be closing down three mines. And I understand the argument on the other side because they say it has nothing to with us, it has nothing to do with our regulations, this is because natural-gas prices are low, which is true. But even if that were not the case, once this regulation becomes final, no one will be able to build a new coal power plant in America.

BOBBY L. RUSH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. Today’s hearing will focus on H.R. 6172, a bill that prohibits the EPA from finalizing standards of performance under section 111 of the Clean Air Act for carbon dioxide emissions from existing or new fossil fuel-fired power plants unless or until carbon capture and storage is found to be technologically and economically feasible.

Ironically this bill comes on the heels of the last markup the subcommittee held where the majority defeated an amendment I offered that would have exempted future clean-coal projects from the arbitrary December 2011 deadline, and my Republican colleagues’ misguided attempts to disrupt the Department of Energy loan program by prohibiting any funding for future proposals regardless of the merits or technological advances of those projects. So as the first attempt to abandon any new Department of Energy funding for future clean-coal projects, the majority party is now bringing forth a bill that would block and delay EPA rules from finalizing the proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants or any future carbon pollution standards for existing power plants until carbon capture and sequestration is technologically and economically feasible. This bill to most people would seem simply another attempt to try and shield the dirtiest polluters from commonsense air quality standards that would make their facilities cleaner and more efficient while protecting Americans’ health.

FRED UPTON, MICHIGAN. We are extremely concerned about the impacts that this proposed rule would have on the future of affordable coal-fired power generation in America if indeed it is finalized. As currently written, the rule requires any new coal-fired plants to install costly carbon capture and sequestration technology. However, even President Obama’s Department of Energy has acknowledged that CCS technology is not yet commercially available and that large-scale commercialization remains years, if not decades, away.

Leaders in CCS technology and industry stakeholders agree that significant technical, legal and regulatory hurdles still need to be overcome in order to successfully bring CCS to commercial scale. And because CCS technology remains in its early stages of development, not a single CCS developer in the world can currently guarantee that its technology will work at commercial scale, and without such a guarantee, power plant operators will not, and cannot, make investment in CCS technology.

HENRY A. WAXMAN, CALIFORNIA. This committee has heard a lot of arguments from victims and people are being convinced that they are victims by the government when that is not the case. Let me cite an example. This committee had a hearing on EPA’s proposed regulation of farm dust. Can anybody think of anything more ridiculous than regulating farm dust that is ubiquitous to farms? So this committee rushed legislation to protect the farmers from EPA regulation of farm dust even though EPA said they had no plans to regulate farm dust, and we passed a bill. Do you know what the bill did? It provided for repeal of regulations from open-pit mining that put out particulate matter and toxic substances in the air. So the farmers were told they were victims and they were being used for a different purpose.

We don’t have the technology to remove the carbon from coal and store it. It is a technology we all should want to have. But the industry has no incentive to develop that technology because they are doing fine selling coal and using coal without that technology. That would just be an extra expense.

The Republicans in this House passed H.R. 910, the Upton- Inhofe bill. That would have barred EPA from reducing dangerous carbon pollution and codified science denial by overturning EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers health and welfare. It is a premise that climate change is a hoax, and since that time early last year, this Republican House has proved to be the most anti-environmental in the history of the Congress. Republicans have voted more than 300 times on the House Floor to weaken longstanding public-health and environmental laws, block environmental standards, defund protections of our air, water and public lands, and oppose clean energy. They voted 47 times to block action on climate change. When they passed that Upton-Inhofe bill a year and a half ago, House Republicans argued the science was uncertain, EPA was exceeding its authority. By now, everybody should understand that they were wrong on both counts. The science has been clear and clearer, and just look at all the signs of climate change occurring around us: recent wildfires, droughts, heat waves, exactly the type of extreme weather events that scientists have been predicting for years and that this committee has been ignoring.

The EPA is not overreaching. The courts have affirmed their power to regulate in this area. It is about time we try to help the people in the coal area be viable in a new economy that is coming. Otherwise you can scare them with talk of war against them but it is a dishonest approach. It doesn’t help them. It stirs up the feelings of victimology by the people in these areas, and I suppose it is supposed to help Republicans in the election. But sometimes let us stop playing politics and deal with national urgent matters, and this committee has refused to do it for a year and a half.

Eugene Trisko. I am an attorney in private practice, here today to testify on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America to support the enactment of H.R. 6172. I have had the honor of representing the UMWA in Clean Air Act and domestic international climate change issues for the past 25 years. H.R. 6172 is sound policy and a commonsense solution to the threat to new advanced coal generation posed by EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standard rule. That rule sets a uniform CO2 emissions rate of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour applicable to both coal and natural-gas combined cycle units. New coal units would need to employ CCS technology to comply while new natural-gas combined cycle units could comply without CCS.

EPA and DOE’s National Energy Technology Lab estimates that applying CCS to new coal-based units would increase the cost of electric power by 80 percent.

CCS has not been commercially demonstrated in this country as indicated by the findings of the 2010 Interagency Task Force Report on Carbon Capture and Storage. EPA’s proposed rule is simply a means of forcing winners and losers in the future market for electric generation.

Coal is an indispensable part of America’s energy supply and must be a core element of any all-of-the-above energy policy. More than one-third of our Nation’s electricity is generated by coal, mainly in baseload plants. The principal alternatives to coal for future baseload generation are nuclear and natural gas. While natural-gas prices have declined recently, substantial uncertainty surrounds future natural-gas prices, particularly in view of the 40- to 60-year lifetimes of electric generation assets.

John N. Voyles,.fr. On behalf of LG&E and KU Energy LLC. We are aware of no full scale application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in continuous operation on a fossil-fueled electric generating unit.

The energy penalty to add CCS technology to a coal-fired electric generating unit is prohibitively high. Many of the current pilot projects estimate the parasitic load and cycle efficiency penalties to be at least 25 or 30% of a generating station output. For a company like mine, those penalties would mean if CCS technology were retrofitted to an existing 2,000 MW coal-fired station producing power for our customers today, the output from the plant would be reduced by 500 to 600 MW at a minimum.

An even bigger challenge is the application of C02 storage technology. While some carbon dioxide is successfully being utilized in enhanced oil or methane recovery operations and other pilots have successfully injected small quantities of CO2 into deep saline aquifers, the volume of storage necessary to facilitate such operations on a continuous basis for the life of an electric generating station has yet to be established. Very serious questions remain regarding the implications such injection processes have on mineral and property rights, the monitoring of the C02 plume across property lines or state boundaries and the verification systems necessary to ensure long term monitoring is taken into account. We believe these questions loom much larger than the simple view that CO2 can be captured and injected underground and might be done more cost effectively, with less energy penalties at some undetermined point in the future. Until such time as CCS technology is commercially available to be deployed at full scale in a technical and economical manner, we are concerned that any standard of performance proposed

Robert Hilton, Vice President of Power Technologies for Government Affairs for Alstom. Alstom has completed work on four pilot and validation-scale plants and has 10 pilots, validation, and commercial-scale plants in operation, design, or construction worldwide. These CCS projects include both coal and gas generation.

We are here today to specifically address the status of CCS as a commercial technology. CCS is, within the realm of innovation, no different than any other technology under development. It is required to move through various stages of development at consistently larger scale. Alstom has taken each of its CCS-related technologies from the bench level to validation scale with the aim of finally reaching commercial. However, to date, no CCS technologies have been deployed at commercial scale. Validation scale is the proof of technology in real field conditions. This is important. It is at this point we can say confidently that the basic technology works. CCS technology is technologically feasible now.

The final stage to reach commercial status is to perform a demonstration at full scale. It is critical to define the risk of technology to make offers. This cannot be defined until the technology can be shown to work at full scale. This is the first opportunity we have to work with the exact equipment in the exact operating conditions that will become the subject of contractual conditions including performance and other contractual guarantees. This also becomes the first opportunity to optimize the process and equipment to effect best performance and seek cost reduction. Based on these criteria, Alstom does not currently deem its technologies for CCS commercial and, to my knowledge, there are no other technology suppliers globally that can do so.

In its recent rulemaking, EPA has required CCS for all new coal plants and, conceivably gas plants. While Alstom, in conjunction with AEP, has run the largest plant, we are not ready to do this on 500- or 1,000-megawatt plants. It

The current DOE program for first generation technologies on CCS has encountered serious difficulties in bringing projects of commercial scale to operation. It appears that most of the projects, if they continue, are not likely to become operational until 2017 with the exception of Radcliffe/Kemper. Globally the picture is similar. The EU, and notably the UK, are targeting 2016 for commercial scale demos to start up. The Chinese have a road map aimed at two commercial scale demos to begin operation in 2016. But note: these are startups. A period of operation must follow before the technology is deemed ready for commercial offer.

CCS has been in development for approximately the last 12-14 years- a relatively short time for such a complex and critical technology. In the power industry, development periods of 20-25 years are common.

While Alstom, in conjunction with American Electric Power, have built and operated the largest continuous CCS operation on a coal plant through to sequestration, this plant was approximately 50 MWh. This plant, while proving the technology works very well, was not of such scale as to use the real equipment required for a 500 or 1000 MW Coal plant. Many of the components including the chillers and heat exchangers will change for use on a larger plant.

While this plant was capable of capturing and storing over 100,000 tons per year, it was not ready to be offered commercially on a 3-6 million ton per year power plant. [My comment: that is a HUGE amount of CO2 to store].

Baseload Operation

All power plants have some load variation that will have impacts on a plant’s heat rate and CO2 emissions. A typical PC baseload plant may operate 60% of the time at 100% load and another 35% between 50-75% load. The average capacity factor would be about 85% and it would have an average heat rate typically about 1% higher than at 100% load. This alone would be sufficient to increase the specific CO2 emission from a PC plant firing Wyoming subbituminous coal from 1781 to 1799 Ib CO2/MWh – essentially at the 1800 limit.

Cycling Operation

A typical PC cycling plant may operate 30% of the time at 100% load, another 55% between 50-75% load, with the balance of operation at even lower loads. The average capacity factor would be about 70% and it would have an average heat rate typically about 4·5% higher than at 100% load. A 5% heat rate increase from cycling operation would increase the specific CO2 emission of the Illinois bituminous coal from 1698 to 1783 Ib CO2/MWh – already getting very close to the 1800 limit. Note that this is particularly significant as more plants are expected to cycle in the future as renewables increase their share of power generation.

Degradation Due To Plant Age

Power plants are designed to operate for 30 years and many existing plants have operated much longer than that. Normal wear and tear is to be expected which has an impact on the plant heat rate. Looking at just the steam turbine, the plant heat rate could deteriorate by about 1% after 10 years of operation.

Site Factors

Other factors can impact a modern plant design that can also have a negative impact on plant heat rate and thus the CO2 emissions. For example, areas with limited water resources could require an air-cooled condenser vs. water cooling. Local water temperature can also have an impact on condenser operating pressure and heat rate. Table 2 summarizes the impact of an increase in plant heat rate due to the above factors on the specific CO2 emissions for a state-of-the-art USC PC power plant. A plant that is required to cycle would likely have a heat rate 5% higher than its design 100% load heat rate. In this scenario, a bituminous coal would just barely meet the standard and the lower rank fuels would exceed the 1800 Ib CO2/MWh target. It is likely that the bituminous plant would also exceed this target when site specific factors, impacts of startup, shutdown, and age deterioration are also factored in. The cycling impact could be even more significant in the future as renewables assume a larger portion of the total power generation.

Table 2: Impact of Heat Rate Degradation on Specific CO2 Emissions

The power industry normally has heavy production in the winter and summer and less production in the shoulder months of fall and spring.

Among the many challenges faced in implementing technology to reduce CO2 emissions from the power generation sector, minimizing both the energy penalty and the cost of electricity for fossil fueled power plants equipped with CCS are two of the most significant. Many parameters have to be taken into account to calculate these costs, including those related to technical performance. Evaluations and comparisons often result in endless debates due to the infinite number of possible combinations of these input parameters.

The “IPCC Summary for Policymakers” published in May 2007, gives a target for the maximum concentration of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) in the atmosphere of 450 ppm CO2 equivalent. This is required in order to give a reasonable chance of limiting the earth’s long-term surface temperature increase to a maximum of 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. This figure was agreed by all countries at Copenhagen & Cancun. To achieve this goal, CO2 emissions will need to be reduced massively. The main contributors to CO2 emissions today are Power Generation (40%), Transport (20%) and Industry (20%). Power generation currently emits 12 GtCO2/yr. Power is projected to grow significantly, and the 2°C goal will require full de-carbonization of Power generation. Low carbon technologies are needed both for new power generation plants, and for the existing installed base. The possibilities to reduce CO2 emissions in the Power sector include: i) demand reduction, ii) efficiency increase, iii nuclear, iv) renewables (wind, hydro, solar, biomass ), and v) Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This last alternative will by necessity play a major role:

The IEA calculates that 54 to 67% of worldwide electricity generation will still be provided by fossil power plants in 2035. CCS is the only option to deal with the resulting emissions during a transition period until around 2050 after which time it may be possible to move toward a power generation system not reliant on fossil fuels.

John Christy, Alabama State Climatologist, Professor of Atmospheric Science, and Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. A climate change denier.

Also see:

Murray, J. W.  2016.  Limitations of Oil Production to the IPCC Scenarios: The New Realities of US and Global Oil Production. Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality.

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2 Responses to Carbon Capture and Storage not likely to ever be commercial: too expensive, uses up to 30% of the power

  1. yves says:

    Thanks a lot for the info and links.
    Do you know if the 30% accounts for the need for CO2 pipelines, transport, pumping in reservoirs etc ? That is the energy impact on the complete cycle ?
    This is truly the killer aspect, and the one that classifes CCS as “hysterical green washing”, or something like that.
    That is, for each 2 mountain tops blown up by explosives in the Appalachians, just blow up a third one in order to be able to put a green sticker on the energy taken, and call it “clean” …

    • energyskeptic says:

      I like the congressional record because the explanations are easy to understand as well as keep up with what energy policy is. But there are highly technical papers that would be a better source of the energy contained in the coal that CCS uses. I think Patzek says its more like 40% if you clean it all up, and Heinberg’s book “Blackout” makes a good case that there is nowhere to put all the CO2, nor could it be guaranteed not to leak out someday.