NRG Energy, Inc. and Powerspan Corp. are planning the first tests of a technology that might strip carbon from the smokestack at existing coal-fired power plants.
Unlike carbon gasification, a technology that aims to strip carbon before coal is burned, this technology aims to remove carbon after it's been burned -- so it has the potential to be put in place at existing coal-fired power plants around the country. (NRG plans to build a coal gasification plant in New York.)
Work horses of the electric grid, coal-fired power plants also emit more pollution than any other fuel type. Pollution controls for sulfur and nitrogen, which contribute to acid rain and smog; and for mercury, a neurotoxin, have been, or are being deployed on somkestacks around the country to control those pollutants. A smokestack scrubber that addresses carbon is new.
"The post-combustion, regenerative process uses an ammonia-based solution to capture CO2 from the flue gas of a power plant and release it in a form that is ready for safe transportation and permanent geological storage," according to information provided by the companies.
The Powerspan ECO2 technology will be installed at NRG's WA Parish plant near Sugar Land, Texas. That plant is the fourth-most polluting power plant in Texas, according to the latest EPA data. The companies expect the scrubber to strip 90% of carbon from the pollution stream when it goes into operation in 2012.
The companies hope it will be the first carbon capture technology used in a commercially viable way at an existing power plant. The carbon should be turned into a form that can be transported or stored in geologic formations -- a process called sequestration that most presidential candidates have said is a goal for any next-generation coal-fired power plant.
The carbon dioxide from the NRG plant will be pumped into oil wells to boost production near Houston.
The technology was developed in cooperation with the Department of Energy's Technology Laboratory -- showing how critical government funding and priorities can be to creating next-generation pollution control technology that can work to counteract global warming.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.