USA – carbon capture

U.S. utilities balk at expanded carbon-capture subsidy. (August 2018) A Reuters survey of the top 10 U.S. power companies showed eight have no plans to purchase and install carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment, citing high costs and uncertain demand, while the other two declined to comment. Another three utilities that are well-placed to adopt the technology – because of their proximity to existing carbon pipelines and coal reserves – also said they have no plans to tap the newly enriched subsidy. link

March 2018: America’s clean coal dream unravels. Executives at the world’s most ambitious “clean coal” plant knew for years about serious design flaws and budget problems but sought to withhold key information from regulators before their plans collapsed. The Kemper plant in Mississippi, held up as the global model for a new generation of “clean coal” power plants, was the most expensive fossil fuel power plant in US history, with a $7.5bn price tag. However documents uncovered evidence that the company knew that the project would blow through state-imposed budget limits five years before the company decided to reverse course and become an exclusively gas-fired energy plant. link

December 2016: The cost of testing and building CCS projects remains high after more than a decade of significant investments. One of the most notable flops, called FutureGen, was a $1.7bn public-private project that began in 2003. FutureGen was killed twice, by both the Bush and Obama administrations, after it ballooned into an expensive undertaking that faced lawsuits and couldn’t line up the money necessary to complete it in Illinois. By its second demise, the government had spent about $116.5 million of the $1.1 billion it committed in 2010. link (Pictured CCS unit at American Electric Power Company’s Mountaineer Plant near New Haven, West Virginia.)

February 2015: Troubled Future-Gen CCS plant killed off. The Energy Department is walking away from FutureGen, a public-private effort to create a power plant that traps and stores carbon emissions, which began but faltered under President George W. Bush and was revived by the Obama administration. DOE is yanking funding for the project that was authorized to receive $1.1 billion in funding via the 2009 stimulus law, though the bulk was never spent. Bush, who proposed FutureGen in 2003, envisioned a pioneering plant that would demonstrate sophisticated technology that uses coal cleanly on a commercial scale. Large-scale carbon capture remains far from widespread commercial deployment in the electricity sector. link

April 2013: Carbon capture in USA may never come to fruition. link

July 2016: U.S. Model for ‘clean coal’ runs off the tracks. A first-of-its-kind power plant in Mississippi, that was supposed to prove that “clean coal” was not an oxymoron – that it was possible to produce electricity from coal in a way that emits far less pollution, and to turn a profit while doing so. The plant was not only a central piece of the Obama administration’s climate plan, it was also supposed to be a model for future power plants to help slow the dangerous effects of global warming. It is more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget. link

January 2017: America’s first ‘clean coal’ plant is now operational. The Petra Nova project near Houston, Texas, captured carbon dioxide from the process of coal combustion for the first time in September, and has now piped 100,000 tons of it from the plant to the West Ranch oil field 80 miles away, where the CO2 is used to force additional oil from the ground. The plant can capture over 90% of the carbon dioxide. The Energy Department provided grants totaling $190 million to the Petra Nova facility, which cost $1 billion overall. link

June  2014: US plant prepared for operation. The nation’s first coal-fired power plant aiming to capture the majority of its CO2 emissions rises from a vast, cleared plot of Mississippi pine forests. The Kemper County Energy Facility which envisions grabbing 65% of the CO2 from a 582MW gasification power plant is nearing completion. Southern Co. and its subsidiary Mississippi Power, the developers of the $5.5 billion plant, said they are on track for a May 2015 operation date and plan to begin capturing CO2 at the gasification plant this fall. link

As of May 2012, of the 15 major CCS projects currently running or being built, which aren’t attached to power stations, the USA has eight. The $3bn for CCS in the US stimulus bill in 2009 turbocharged the several billion the nation had already ploughed in. Another factor has put the US in pole position: the need for copious CO2 to pump out the last dregs of oil from drained reservoirs, so-called enhanced oil recovery. All but one of the 8 current US projects depend on selling CO2 for this, to make their finances add up. (Europe hosts none of the 15 frontline CCS plants, but has 21 of the 60 or so plants currently in planning.) Howard Herzog, a CCS expert at MIT, said: “The EU plan is totally on the rocks.” Most CCS projects funded by the EU face delays, due to slow investment and the low carbon price. link

November 2013: More dollars thrown at CCS. The Obama Administration will invest a further $84 million to support 18 different CCS projects despite the fact that the technology hasn’t yet proven to be practical, affordable and scalable. Since President Obama took office, DOE has invested $6 billion in clean coal technologies to mitigate the effects of fossil resources, according to the department’s release. link

April 2010: U.S. research paper questions viability of carbon capture and storage. A new research paper from American academics is threatening to blow a hole in growing political support for carbon capture and storage as a weapon in the fight against global warming. The document claims that governments wanting to use CCS have overestimated its value and says it would take a reservoir the size of a small US state to hold the CO2 produced by one power station. The paper concludes that CCS “is not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions, although it has been repeatedly presented as such by others.” link

May 2011: Why CCS viability is daunting. At the 10th annual Conference on Carbon Capture and Sequestration in Pittsburgh (PA)  it did not come as much of a surprise when the chief executive of one of the largest utility companies in the United States questioning the viability of carbon-storage ventures in the next few years. Michael Morris, chief executive of American Electric Power said that the energy industry needs a signal from politicians in Washington DC. He believes that with time, industry can surmount the technical issues, but it is not a cheap proposition. To keep CO2 emissions below 450 parts per million by 2050, an oft-cited target associated with a roughly 50% chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees, would involve 3,200 projects sequestering some 150 gigatonnes of CO2, roughly 70 times the United States’ total carbon emissions from electricity generation in 2009. link