Monday, November 10, 2008

Nancy LaPlaca's, Coal Will Never Be Clean.

Whenever I get in trouble with clean coal issues, I can always count on Nancy to set me straight here is an example of her work. She is a dedicated activist who fights daily to stop new coal fired power plants.


CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) will not work. There are 3 basic problems:
1. Scale: the entire planet is sequestering about 4 million tons of CO2/year right now, at enormous
cost -- which is hard to pin down. 4 million tons sounds like a lot, but it represents the CO2 emissions from a single coal plant; the largest scale projects in the U.S. will EACH sequester about 1 million tons/year, or about 25% of the output from a single coal plant.
2. Cost: the cost is enormous -- see below. Building gasified -- i.e. 'clean' coal will cost at least $4,000/kW -- to put this in perspective, it's TWICE what wind costs, and 30% or more expensive than Concentrating Solar Power -- utility-scale solar thermal that's costing 12-14 cents/kWh NOW;
3. Risk: who will be responsible for leakage, for induced seismic activity due to cramming billions of tons of liquid, highly corrosive CO2 underground?

Here's my standard LTE (letter to editor):

The coal companies can whine and bluster, but simple physics tells us that matter is not created or destroyed -- only changed. Unfortunately, the coal, oil and gas industry gives lots and lots of campaign money, perhaps giving them the illusion that they can actually change basic scientific principles.

Coal will never be "clean." The volume of CO2 (and many other pollutants, but let's just focus on CO2) is enormous (~2 pounds of CO2 created for every pound of coal burned), it's a very stable molecule, adn the cost of risk of sequestration far exceeds the cost of the MOST expensive kind of solar, photo voltaics.

We must look at energy in terms of "life cycle assessment" or EROIE (Energy Returned on Energy Invested, which Richard Heinberg talks about extensively in his many books, including The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies).
there are only TWO IGCC (Ingrated Gasification Combined Cycle) plants that produce electricity in the U.S. (for a total of four in the world) - see attached 3 page report;
no IGCC plant currently captures CO2;
the costs and parasitic load (how much energy it takes to run the capture and storage processes) are enormous.
- IGCC capital cost: $3,400/kW
- parasitic load to capture CO2: 15-20% (higher levels of CO2 = higher parasitic load; it's easier to capture the first 30% than the last 30%)
- cost of compression: $17/ton
The percentage of CO2 that is being captured and stored right now is a pittance. The total CO2 emissions from coal plants is ~2.5 billion tons/year in the U.S., with an average plant emitting ~5 million tons. EACH location in the world is capturing and storing about 1 million tons/year -- about 1/5 of the emissions from a single coal plant. That's not a solution, it's a niche market.
Over a dozen IGCC plants were cancelled or put on hold as of November 2007, Emerging Energy Research, Oct. 5, 2007, TECO, Nuon Underscore IGCC's Woes. Since the report was issued, at least 2 more IGCC's have been cancelled: Colorado and Orlando. TECO's cancellation is notable it has been running an IGCC plant for the past ten years; while Orlando is notable because it received $235 million in federal funds, which it must now return.

CO2 compression alone costs $17/ton, so a plant emitting 3 million tons/year of CO2 would cost $51 million/year JUST to compress the CO2! And that's assuming it will "stay" underground for a long time. The parasitic load from the compression, transportation etc. is estimated to be 20-25%- and that could be low. See Ramgen's excellent description from the Western Governor's Ass'n meeting Oct. 23-24, 2007 in Denver:

A July 2006 EPA study estimated the added costs of IGCC with carbon capture:
-plant output reduced 14%
- total capital cost increase - 47%
- cost of electricity increase 38%
Summary, page. ES-6:

Finally, the risk is enormous. In the 1960s, the US Army Corps injected 165 million gallons of liquid toxic waste from Rocky Mtn Arsenal beneath the Denver basin, triggering 1,500 seismic events between 1962-67 -- three over Richter magnitude 5; induced seismic activity is a real danger when injecting large amounts of a pressurized -- and corrosive -- substance like CO2. High Country News recently reported on it:

CO2 is heavier than air and displaces air, which is why a cloud of CO2 released from a volcanic lake in Lake Nyos, Cameroon in the mid-1980's instantly killed the village's 1700 inhabitants and animals.

See this fact sheet on IGCC:

Nancy LaPlaca

In politics the middle way is none at all....Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write. John Adams 1735-1826.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Always welcome.