Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Carbon-capture-and-storage technology may be developing too slowly to be a savior for coal

American Electric Power will begin carbon capture and storage operations at its Mountaineer Power Plant in Mason County, W.Va., later this week, but the coal industry's effort to reduce carbon emissions may be coming too late in the race against climate change. If AEP's project works it could save the coal industry, Ken Ward Jr. reported for the Sunday Gazette-Mail in Charleston, but the technology may not develop quickly enough to do that.

Scottish carbon-capture-and-storage expert R. Stuart Haszeldine recently warned in an edition of the journal Science that CCS technology may drift beyond 2020 as a commercially viable option if more financial commitment to real construction for pilot projects isn't found soon, Ward noted. Meanwhile, scientists aren't even sure injecting large amounts of compressed CO2 underground is really safe.

While West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin proclaimed CCS technology as "here today" when state permits were issued for the Mountaineer project, it is only a small test, Ward reports. The CCS plant makes up only 20 of the 1,300 megawatts the plant produces and will capture only 1.5 percent of its emissions.

CCS facilities also face a lack of physical space, Ward reports. A general rule says a CCS facility requires at least the same footprint as the plant it serves, and some plant sites don't have room to accommodate a CCS facility. While some environmental groups like Greenpeace label CCS as a "false hope," some analysts say additional funding for the technology may be called for in climate-change legislation to get Democratic West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd's vote, which may be needed to pass the bill. (Read more)

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