Issue: Mar 2007


by Bob Brooks

GM, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota and United Auto Worker executives recently testified in Congress that auto makers are willing to cut US vehicle CO2 emissions if treated equally with other sources. This points to a new technology for CO2 reduction from the single largest source of industrial CO2 emissions, namely, coal combustion at electric generating plants.

Now entering the picture is a joint program between the French industrial equipment maker, Alstom, along with program partners We Energies (Wisconsin electric utility) and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) that will begin operation by the end of 2007 of a pilot system at a We Energies plant in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin expected to demonstrate 90% reduction of CO2 from pulverized coal combustion. The technology has been demonstrated successfully in the laboratory.

We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty tells AI the cost may be comparable to the estimated premium cost of IGCC (integrated combined cycle) technology. He explains that the new system is based on treating flue gasses with an ammonia solution after removal of 80-90% NOx, 99.7% fly ash and 90-95% of sulfur dioxide by current control methods. A low concentration of Ammonia in clean flue gas then captures 90% of the CO2 with a cold water wash from which the ammonia is recycled back the absorber.

A similar 5 MW pilot plant is being constructed for demonstration in a EU country

Alstom spokesman Paola Tizioni tells AI that results of the We Energires demonstration will be analyzed and reported by EPRI early in 2009.( Full scale systems are targeted for availability in 2011).The team is not waiting for EPRI’s study results and is already planning to go ahead with another partner, American Electric Power(AEP), with a large scale demonstration at an eastern US electric power generating plant where captured CO2 will be sequestered underground. Another large demonstration is planned at a AEP plant in Oklahoma where the captured CO2 will be injected into wells for enhanced oil recovery.(AI has learned from other sources that the US has large unrecovered oil supplies in old wells equal to many years of US oil needs). The value of CO2 for this use could not be learned.

Alstom and We Energies spokesmen point out that the ammonia based system is applicable to both new and existing coal fired power plants and that ammonia is now employed for current NOx emissions control, hence, would not be a new supply factor.
The data available to AI indicates that electric output from a coal fired generating plant with the ammonia system is reduced by about 15% which indicates the cost of reducing CO2 90% and the level of conservation that will be needed if new electric generating capacity is not built... .

An interesting aspect of electricity with effectively 90% reduced CO2 “content”, is the implication for CO2 from plug hybrid and all electric vehicles. This in turn could impact vehicle maker fleet wide CO2 levels of concern to regulators. It would also have broad implications including cost for regulated CO2 phased in over the long term to achieve national goals.

Another sidelight is the location of the southern Wisconsin We Energies demonstration very close to commercial and corportate jet aircraft capable airports available for the many industry executives expected as visitors. .

About the author: Bob Brooks is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and a long time automotive technology journalist specializing in powertrains and fuels

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