Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wyo. coal plant would be first at commercial scale to capture and sequester carbon dioxide

Three energy companies have filed an application for funding from the Department of Energy for the country's first commercial-scale coal-fired power plant that would capture and sequester carbon dioxide, preventing its escape to the atmosphere, where it is the main greenhouse gas.

The plant in Campbell County, Wyoming, proposed by Black Hills Corp., Babock & Wilcox, and Air Liquide Engineering, would use oxy-coal combustion, which burns coal in a regulated oxygen environment instead of normal air, Dustin Bleizeffer of the Casper Star-Tribune reports. The process results in near-zero sulfur dioxide emissions and a more pure stream of carbon dioxide.

"It will be capable of capturing and storing approximately 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is greater than 90 percent of the proposed plant's total carbon dioxide emissions," B&W says on its Web site. Rob Hurless, telecommunications and energy adviser to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, told the Wyoming legislature's Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee that the process could be used to retrofit existing coal plants.

The project is among dozens seeking funding from DOE programs like the Clean Coal Power Initiative, which received $800 million from the stimulus act, Bleizeffer reports. Energy Secretary Steven Chu "has been serious about moving money," Hurless told Bleizeffer. "The Department of Energy had a reputation of sitting on money. Recently, these things have been moving fairly quickly." (Read more)

The debate over whether the state or federal government should assume long-term liability for any carbon-sequestration projects is delaying progress on the plant, Bleizeffer reported Monday. "There's a total lack of any kind of integrated plan among all the states in the West" on the long-term liability question, Joint Minerals Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Grant Larson told Bleizeffer. Wyoming officials want to claim sovereign immunity from liability in the event of a carbon leak or earthquake and say that the federal government should assume that responsibility. (Read more)

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