DOE funds research to use CO2, rather than steam, in coal plants
- The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Thar Energy a $9 million grant for research into cost-effective methods for applying supercritical carbon dioxide power cycle methods in coal plants, Argus reports.
- The research is part of the department's National Energy Technology Laboratory program aimed at developing commercially viable techologies for coal plants to use CO2 to run their turbines, rather than water steam. Thar will reportedly focus on heat exchange devices called recuperators.
- DOE funded five other projects focused on the use of CO2 in turbines, which it and the technology's backers say can be more efficient than the use of water steam and provide a use for carbon emissions captured by coal plants.
While all eyes were on the release of the Clean Power Plan this week — which regulates carbon emissions from existing power plants — the EPA also released its New Source Performance Standards, governing emissions from new, modified and restructured plants.
Under those rules, coal plants can emit no more than 1,400 lbs of CO2 per MWh, and Argus reports that supercritical power cycles are seen as crucial for helping coal plants meet the new standards. Without them or commercialy viable carbon capture techniques, it could become virtually impossible to build new coal plants in the United States.
EPA estimates that new plants using supercritical power cycles could meet the standards by capturing 16-23% of their CO2 emissions, depending on coal type, according to Argus.
The agency also estimates that despite the Clean Power Plan and unfriendly market forces, coal will continue to provide a significant portion of U.S. electricity generation until at least 2030. Utilities looking to avoid stranded costs or preserve baseload generation could opt to retrofit older plants with supercritical power cycles and emission abatement technologies rather than build new gas or renewable facilities, if the technologies can become cost effective.
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