During 2006 activities aimed at early CCS action included: (i) Bob Williams co-authoring a Scientific American article on the importance of early CCS action for coal power, (ii) activities by Williams and Eric Larson relating to production of synfuels in Montana with low GHG emissions, (iii) analysis by Williams on the opportunity for early CCS action in Texas using CO2 from coal/petcoke power plants for enhanced oil recovery, and (iv) Tom Kreutz’s participation in the technical experts group advising the FutureGen Industrial Alliance.
Coal Power in the Face of Climate-Change-Mitigation Constraints
For the September 2006 Scientific American special issue on Energy’s Future Beyond Carbon, Williams co-authored with David Hawkins and Dan Lashof of NRDC the article “What to Do About Coal”—in which they: (i) argued the urgency of moving at the global level to CCS for coal plants, (ii) argued that the capture technology needed to do this is commercially ready and that enough is known about CO2 storage to begin large-scale commercial CCS projects early in the next decade, (iii) showed that if the CCS infrastructure for coal power could be put into place worldwide by 2050 along with comparably aggressive measures in other sectors, the atmospheric CO2 concentration could plausibly be stabilized at 450 ppmv, and (iv) argued for a U.S. climate change mitigation policy that complements carbon cap-and-trade with a coal power sectoral policy that would explicitly promote CCS for coal power.
Toward Early Action on Synfuels Production with low GHG emissions in Montana
The Governor of Montana is an advocate of making synfuels from coal using Montana’s abundant low cost coal resources. In March 2006 the Governor and Williams were interviewed on 60 Minutes about the Governor’s vision, and in November Williams and Larson had an opportunity to meet with the Governor in the State’s Capitol to discuss how this vision could be made climate friendly both by pursuing CCS and by coprocessing coal and biomass. In his presentation to the Governor, Williams pointed out that: (i) without CCS the GHG emission rate for synfuels would be ~ 80% more than for crude oil-derived fuels (see Figure 1); (ii) with CCS the emission rate could be reduced to about the level of crude oil-derived fuels (see Figure 1); (iii) CO2 capture is cheap (in $/t CO2) for plants making synfuels (~ ½ and ~ ¼ of the capture cost for coal IGCC and coal steam-electric power plants, respectively), (iv) at current and prospective high oil prices it would often be cost-effective to use this low-cost CO2 for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) even without a climate change mitigation policy in place, (v) the synfuel GHG emission rate with CCS could be further reduced significantly by gasifying with the coal modest amounts of biomass in the form of Montana’s crop and forest industry residues, exploiting the negative GHG emissions potential of photosynthetic CO2 storage, (vi) there is commercial experience with co-gasification of biomass with coal at modest biomass input levels, and (vii) coprocessing residues and coal with CO2 capture and use for EOR is likely be able to provide synfuels at competitive prices while significantly adding to rural incomes in Montana. Before the November meeting the Governor he had already decided that he would insist on CCS for coal synfuels plants. Since the meeting he has focused attention on the coal/biomass co-processing idea in at least two major speeches.
Toward Early CCS Action for Coal Power in Texas
There are proposals to build many new power plants fueled with low-rank coals in Texas, including 9 GWe that TXU wants to build before 2010—plans for which the Texas Governor is putting on a “Fast Track” for approval but which are encountering widespread opposition. Williams has carried out an analysis showing that the surge in demand for new coal power presents an opportunity for early CCS action by recovering CO2 at new power plants for EOR in Texas, which accounts for about 35% of the ~ 50 billion barrel economic U.S. EOR expansion potential identified in studies for the US Department of Energy by Advanced Resources International—the exploitation of which, according to ARI, is constrained mainly by the availability of low cost CO2. Williams’ analysis shows that if new power plants were built to operate not on low-rank coal but on a blend of such coal and fuel-grade petcoke (which is abundantly available in Gulf Coast states) CO2 capture at new power plants and use for EOR would probably be profitable to EOR producers while simultaneously reducing rates to electricity consumers, and that via this strategy the long-term decline in Texas oil production could be reversed for an extended period. But he identified major institutional obstacles to seizing this opportunity and proposed policies for overcoming these obstacles.
FutureGen “Surface” Technical Experts Group
Tom Kreutz participated as one of ten technical experts to advise the FutureGen Industrial Alliance in determining the final plant configuration of FutureGen, the U.S. government’s $1 billion flagship demonstration project that will convert coal to hydrogen and electric power with CO2 capture and storage in underground saline aquifers. The Technical Experts Group (TEG) met on three separate occasions in 2006 to discuss how many competing program goals might be best achieved using various combinations of cutting edge and commercially available technologies. The group heard presentations from technology vendors and debated the merits of numerous plant configurations. Ultimately, each group member provided quantitative assessments of 10 separate characteristics in each of 27 different plant configurations. This information was used by the Alliance in formulating the final design of FutureGen.