Carbon Capture And Sequestration (CCS) Update: Capture Methods Highlighted By USDOE Grant

CCS coal train in ohio photo

You may recall that Federal funding for the single, multi-billion dollar, "CCS" pilot project slated for the US State of Illinois was recently canceled by the USDOE. Thus ended the high profile consortium project with a design integrating coal gasification with carbon dioxide capture and sequestration - in single demonstration. Coincidentally, big CCS projects planned in other parts of the world also were stalled or canceled in early 2008. The combined effect was to send a signal that the sequestration card could become unplayable as a coal defense. What smaller projects would the USDOE decide to fund?With the high tech, integrated projects temporarily sidelined, everyone was left to wonder which cost-effective technologies would emerge for existing (non-gasification) coal-fired electricity generation facilities.

Specifically, everyone has been waiting to find out which C02 stack emission capture technologies are cost effective, and how the evaluations would be made. Here's how.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced today that it will provide $36 million for 15 projects aimed at furthering the development of new and cost-effective technologies for the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the existing fleet of coal-fired power plants.
Those of you with engineering, chemistry, and material science backgrounds will find the project list fascinating. Via: USDOE, DOE to Provide $36 Million to Advance Carbon Dioxide Capture

Most of the listed pilot projects have a 2 to 3 year duration range. New process technologies typically take 5 or more years before commercial-scale economics, reliability, and operability are fully demonstrated. Assuming that several cost-effective stack-capture technologies sort out by 2011, full scale field tests can then be initiated.

Conclusion: commercial feasibility of the 'capture part' of CCS may not be publicly known until prior to the the 2012 US election. Given the importance of coal in the climate action equation, some sort of fast-tracking may be necessary by the next US administration.

Image credit::Solar Navigator, Coal rail cars in Ashtabula, Ohio

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