Spremberg clean coal plant


in Economics, Science, The environment

In Germany, Vattenfall is in the process of constructing a 30 megawatt (MW) ‘clean coal’ power plant. The plant will separate pure oxygen from air, burn coal in it, then ship the resulting CO2 to an injection facility 150 miles away by truck. The liquified CO2 will then be injected 3,000 metres underground in a depleted gas field.

The best thing about this project is that it will provide some real data about the feasibility and costs of carbon capture and storage (CCS). A 30 megawatt plant is a pipsqueak compared to the 500 and 1,000 MW coal facilities that are operating and planned. Nonetheless, this smaller plant should provide some useful information about timelines and cost structures. It will also establish how much of the total energy produced by the plant will be needed to produce the oxygen stream, as well as liquify, transport, and bury the CO2.

Too often, governments and industry groups blithely assert that they will sequester 10% or 20% or 50% of emissions by year X. At present, that is a bit like the Wright Brothers describing the economics of a major airline. It is only with the successful deployment of pilot plants that we will discover if ‘clean coal’ is actually a viable low-carbon source of energy or (as I suspect) a high-cost distraction from superior alternative approaches focused on renewables, efficiency, and conservation.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan September 20, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Previously on coal:

Selling ‘clean coal’
* June 2nd, 2008

Clean coal isn’t cheap
* November 27th, 2007

Coal and climate change
* March 22nd, 2007

Anonymous September 22, 2008 at 8:47 am

Even if coal plants can be built that emit no greenhouse gasses or other pollutants, coal mining will still be a dangerous and environmentally destructive undertaking.


R.K. September 22, 2008 at 1:48 pm

How much do they estimate the plant will cost?

Milan September 22, 2008 at 2:23 pm

“The pilot plant, which has a thermal capacity of 30 megawatts, cost roughly 70 million euros.”

Tristan September 25, 2008 at 7:56 am

This will be an interesting test run to see if it causes the water table to be contaminated with hydrochloric acid.

Milan September 25, 2008 at 9:01 am

You mean carbonic acid?

. September 25, 2008 at 11:52 am

In Ohio, [Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate Joseph] Biden said he’s against clean-coal technology. (That was his stance in the primaries, not Obama’s current stance.)

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