China Sweats In Warmest Temperatures On Record

The Department of Energy has come under fire – sometimes in bizarre ways – for appearing to favor renewables and nuclear energy over fossil fuels. Detractors have dubbed the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, a “War on Coal”.

But the DOE last week announced more than $80 million in new DOE investments to help drive down the cost of carbon capture and storage for coal–fired power plants, which could be the key to keeping them viable in an emissions-restrictive environment.

The DOE is allocating $83.8MM, which will augment investments by industry, academia and research institutions, to 18 projects seeking to develop efficient, cost-effective CCS technologies for new and existing coal-fired power plants.

“Coal and other fossil fuels still provide 80 percent of our energy, 70 percent of our electricity, and will be a major part of our energy future for decades,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in a statement.  “Any serious effort to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change must also include developing, demonstrating and deploying the technologies to use our abundant fossil fuel resources as cleanly as possible.”

While Secretary Moniz was recently quoted as saying that CCS is “ready” to meet proposed EPA greenhouse gas emissions standards, recent media coverage on CCS has focused primarily on the technology’s failure to progress to a stage of broad use and viability. The Washington Post recently reported that there are only two power plants – due online in 2014 – that will be capable of capturing and storing their carbon emissions. There are also concerns that injecting CO2 into underground storage could induce earthquakes.

The DOE is funding two kinds of CCS research. Research on CCS technologies for traditional combustion plants will focus on capturing post-combustion emissions, while gasification-based plants – which break coal into chemical components prior to combustion – will seek to make pre-combustion carbon capture less costly and more efficient.

Post-combustion technologies received the lion’s share of DOE awards, at roughly $71.5MM, or 85% of the total. Some of the biggest awards included $15MM to an ION Engineering project in Colorado, which will test an advanced carbon capture solvent under realistic conditions, $10MM to a Gas Technology Institute project in Illinois, which will conduct a pilot-scale test to capture flue gas using both a solvent and a membrane, and $10.5MM to an SRI International project in California, which will test a sorbent-based process under realistic conditions to determine viability for commercial applications such as enhanced oil recovery.

There were only three awards given to pre-combustion technologies, but these included $8MM for a TDA Research project in Colorado to develop a new sorbent-based technology for IGCC plants that also aims to significantly enhance their productivity.

A full list of projects can be found here.