A curious little news item caught my eye last week : a Reuters report of the official opening of the Britain’s largest Carbon Capture project in Renfrew, Scotland :-
All pretty standard hot-off-the-Press-Release fare. You would have thought it was a fine thing, a noble undertaking, a breakthrough. If you were at all interested in Energy engineering, which most of you aren’t.
However, two eensy-weensy details mar the whole thing for me.
1. Joan Ruddock’s reported words : “CCS is our priority. The alternatives are far less attractive”.
2. The big fact missing from the report – the plant will not be permanently storing any Carbon Dioxide at all !
The demonstration plant “will undergo 20 days’ testing until December [or beyond] at a cost of [£] 10,000 pounds a day”, but it won’t be doing the “storage” part of “Carbon Capture and Storage”.
The Carbon Dioxide will be released to the air as it comes out of the “combustion” plant : “Renfrew – no plans for CO2 capture” :-
So what does Joan Ruddock mean, exactly, when she says “the alternatives are far less attractive” ?
“UK pins climate race hopes on carbon capture pilot : Mon Jul 27, 2009 8:50pm EDT : By Nina Chestney : RENFREW, Scotland (Reuters) – A pilot project in Scotland has begun testing a method of cutting the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, which Britain hopes will be a leap forward in the fight against climate change. Doosan Babcock Energy switched on its OxyFuel combustion burner, Britain’s largest demonstration project for carbon capture and storage (CCS), on Friday. More than 100 people from industry, the media and the regional and national governments were invited to witness the event, just outside the city of Glasgow…Britain wants to take the lead on the technology to create green jobs and profit from global business potentially worth 2 billion to 4 billion pounds by 2030. It could also make up ground lost to its European neighbors in renewable energy deployment. “CCS is our priority. The alternatives are far less attractive,” Joan Ruddock, minister of state for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, told Reuters at the launch…”
“Carbon News : Minister opens £7.4 million Oxycoal CCS demonstration project : 27-07-09 : Minister opens £7.4 million Oxycoal CCS demonstration project : Energy and climate change minister Joan Ruddock opening the Oxycoal CCS project in Renfrew : Energy and Climate Change minister Joan Ruddock has opened the UK’s first full-size oxyfuel carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Renfrew, near Glasgow…Opening the project on Friday (July 24), Mrs Ruddock said: “Cleaning up coal power is a must if we’re to meet our climate change goals whilst keeping the lights on. The development of CCS offers high quality jobs and export opportunities for the UK which is why we’re supporting this OxyCoal project with £2.2 million of funding. “Our proposals on coal are some of the most radical in the world and will help ensure the UK leads the way on CCS,” she added.”
“Newsroom : Headline: Doosan Babcock launches world’s largest OxyCoal™ firing demonstration – 24/07/2009 : Joan Ruddock MP, Minister of State for the Department of Energy & Climate Change to open a major project to demonstrate Doosan Babcock’s OxyCoal™ Clean Combustion technology in Renfrew, Scotland. 24th July 2009, Renfrew, UK : Doosan Babcock today announced a major step towards making full-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage a reality with the opening of the world’s largest OxyCoal™ Clean Combustion Test Facility at Renfrew, by Joan Ruddock MP, the Minister of State for the Department of Energy & Climate Change. Energy Minister Joan Ruddock, said “Cleaning up coal power is a must if we’re to meet our climate change goals whilst keeping the lights on. The development of CCS offers high quality jobs and export opportunities for the UK which is why we’re supporting this OxyCoal project with £2.2 million of funding. Our proposals on coal are some of the most radical in the world and will help ensure the UK leads the way on CCS…”
“24 July 2009 : Joan Ruddock’s speech to Doosan Babcock carbon capture oxyfuel demonstration opening, Renfrew”
I think it’s necessary to trace back a bit in the good Minister’s thinking about Carbon Capture and Storage. Let’s nip back to October 2008 :-
“You are here: Publications and Records > Commons Publications > Commons Hansard > Daily Hansard – Debate : 28 Oct 2008 : Column 783 : …Lynne Jones: I have supported new clause 11. Given the reservations of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) about the feasibility of achieving the 80 per cent. target by 2050, including in aviation, I am horrified that we should be supporting new power stations that are only 20 per cent. more efficient in carbon dioxide emissions. Surely if the new clause were accepted, it would be an incentive to people wanting to build new power stations to have to invest in carbon capture and storage technology. How can we contemplate giving permission for a coal-fired power station without carbon capture and storage? Joan Ruddock: Perhaps my hon. Friend will listen to the rest of my remarks and then make up her mind about what she has just said and how she wants to react. Because I have taken interventions, I have not been able to get to some of the remarks that I want to make, which I think will cover some of her points. Ruling out new, more efficient coal stations now would be likely to hamper the development of carbon capture technology, as I have indicated. The efficiency penalty associated with the capture of carbon dioxide makes retrofitting the technology to older, less efficient power stations a much less attractive option than installing new build. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said that such stations would be in use for a much longer time, but it remains the case that it would be more attractive to link carbon capture and storage to a new station than to retrofit an old one…”
So, what she appears to mean is that building new Coal-fired power plants with Carbon Capture and Storage included (oxyfuel or pre-combustion) is more attractive than putting Carbon Capture equipment on already existing Coal-fired power stations (post-combustion).
That “attractive”-ness must have something to do with cost and corporate lobbying. So this question remains unanswered : how are we going to reduce emissions from the already existing Coal-fired power stations, then ?
And if her thinking also includes the idea that Carbon Capture and Storage is more attractive than other things, say, cutting Energy Waste, Wind Power, BioMethane and a massive “eco-fascist” State-legislated programme of home insulation, then I’d say she’s got it wrong.
CCS is going to remain extremely expensive, and burn rapidly peaking Coal supplies. It’s only ever going to be a “niche” technology. Not everyone’s going to have it, and those that do aren’t going to have very much of it.
Some extra background reading :-
“You are here: Publications and Records > Commons Publications > Commons Hansard > Daily Hansard – Written Answers : 23 Feb 2009 : Column 292W—continue : Energy and Climate Change : … Coal: Pollution Control : Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if he will make it his policy to allocate funds to the development of clean coal technology in order to reduce levels of coal imports; and if he will make a statement.  : Mr. Mike O’Brien [holding answer 11 February 2009]: The Government’s policy on clean coal technologies was set out in the “Strategy for Developing Carbon Abatement Technologies for Fossil Fuel Use” in 2005 and more recently in the Energy White Paper, 2007. Clean coal technologies include: higher efficiency conversion processes; fuel switching to lower carbon alternative such as biomass co-firing; and C02 capture and storage (CCS). Some of these approaches will result in increased efficiency of the operation of the generation plant, but some such as CCS will require additional energy to operate. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) supports demonstration of carbon abatement technologies through the Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF). To date DECC has committed £2.2 million to an oxy-fuel combustion CCS project. In addition the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) support R & D on clean coal technologies via the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the research councils. The TSB has identified carbon abatement technologies as a priority area in its energy generation and supply strategy and currently supports around 11 projects with a total value of around £ 13.4 million. The research councils also support a wide range of underpinning research and training in carbon abatement technologies through their research councils’ energy programme and through their individual programmes. In the last five years some 25 projects covering CCS totalling over £23 million have been funded. Sourcing of coal is a matter for generators and other coal users, but the Government believe that making the best use of UK energy resources, including coal reserves, contributes to our security of supply goals, and that this reflects a value in maintaining access to economically viable reserves of coal.”
Just for a laugh, here is the schematic for pre-combustion :-