EPRI to study carbon capture at coal power plants

NEW YORK Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:57pm EST

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NEW YORK Jan 27 (Reuters) - Five electric utilities in the United States and Canada will host studies of post-combustion carbon dioxide (CO2) capture systems at existing coal-fired power plants, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) said on Tuesday.

As global demand for electricity increases and regulators worldwide look to reduce CO2 emissions, post-combustion capture for new and existing coal units could be an important option, EPRI said in a release.

Coal generates about half of the electricity used in the United States and is now much cheaper than other fossil fuels like natural gas. At the current production rate, the United States has enough coal to last more than 150 years.

But a coal plant produces about twice as much CO2 as a natural gas-fired plant, and CO2 is a greenhouse gas associated with global warming. A 1,000 MW coal plant produces about six million tons of CO2 per year.

Retrofitting existing plants presents "significant challenges," EPRI noted, including limited space for new equipment, limited heat and water needed to run the system and potential steam turbine modifications.

EPRI expects to conduct the studies in 2009.

The five stations include Edison International's (EIX.N) 1,536-megawatt (MW) Powerton in Illinois, Great River Energy's 1,100 MW Coal Creek in North Dakota, Emera Inc's (EMA.TO) two 160 MW units at Lingan in Nova Scotia, Intermountain Power Agency's 950 MW Intermountain in Utah and FirstEnergy Corp's (FE.N) 176-MW Unit 1 at Bay Shore in Ohio.

EPRI is already working on post-combustion carbon capture systems using chilled ammonia designed by French engineering firm Alstom SA (ALSO.PA) at stations owned by Wisconsin Energy Corp (WEC.N) in Wisconsin and American Electric Power Co Inc (AEP.N) in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

U.S. greenhouse gases in 2007 were close to 7.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Burning fossil fuels, like natural gas and coal, to generate electricity is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, representing about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

EPRI is a not-for-profit organization that conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jim Marshall)

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