Did you know CCS (carbon capture and storage) requires an industrial plant almost as large as the coal fired power station it is supposed to clean up? Or that it uses fully 40% of the energy of the entire output of the same station? It turns out to be such an onerous, costly pursuit it could only have been dreamed up by an enemy of coal.
The central problem is that under conditions we humans like to be in, the CO2 molecule emphatically wants to be a huge voluminous gas. To make it more compact and storable back in the small hole it came from, we either have to change it chemically, or forcibly stuff it in under some combination of extreme pressure or extreme cold. And there aren’t many cold sealed rock vaults in Earth’s thin crust, which rests on a 1000 degree C ball of magma. Any form of chemical, temperature or pressure change uses monster amounts of energy, and there is just no getting around it without fiddling with laws of chemistry. The whole idea of CCS is so insanely unfeasible that in order to stuff a beneficial fertilizer underground it appears we must spend 60% more to build every new power station and then throw away 40% of its output as well. You can’t make this stuff up. CCS is the threat that makes new coal stations unaffordable in the West, and building those costs into the plans makes cost comparisons with renewables (and nuclear) so much more “attractive”. Anton goes through some provocative numbers. — Jo
Guest Post: Anton Lang (TonyfromOz)
Here’s why CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Storage) or “Clean” Coal is impossible
The Big-PR machine makes it sound simple:
Credit to Genevieve Young (Univ of Utah) for an image that has been adapted by others.
Billions of investment dollars hinge upon it, but few will correctly explain the whole process and what it entails. If they did, the public would see it for the pie-in-the-sky fairy plan that it is.
CCS is the proverbial Sword Of Damocles, hovering over every proposal for a new large scale coal fired power plant because it might only be approved only if it includes CCS. It’s used in the costings for new plants, making them virtually unaffordable. Making coal fired power enormously expensive means wind-power appears to be “cheaper” than coal. It’s one of the ploys used to artificially raise the costs for coal fired power, so renewable proponents can point and gloat that wind especially is now cheaper than coal fired power.
CCS artificially raises the costs of coal fired power in two ways
First, it raises the initial construction cost for any new large scale coal fired plant by around 60%.
For example, look at the pricing of USC plants (Ultra Super Critical Coal, hotter and more efficient). China leads the way here, and they can construct a new 2000 MW plant for around $2 billion, partly because labor is cheaper there. In Germany the equivalent cost is A$3.4 billion. The construction cost for a new USC plant with CCS in Germany is $5.5 billion, almost not economically viable. That capital cost must be recovered from the sale of the electricity the plant generates over its life.
Second, the CCS process is hugely energy intensive — consuming up to 40% of the electricity generated by the plant. So the plant can only sell 60% of the actual power it produces.
But money is not the only reason that no one has built a true CCS coal plant.
The warmists would spend more and more,
To capture and lock in a store,
All the ‘carbon’ ‘pollution’,
As their hare-brained solution,
On advice from their guru Al Gore.
Few are aware of the scale of the process of capturing CO2
Those new USC coal fired plants burn 15% less coal (see my post here). A new USC plant will burn 5.5 million tons of coal a year. At the average multiplier of 2.86 tons of CO2 for every ton of coal burned, that means CO2 emission of 15.75 million tons. Note well: the weight of the CO2 emissions is almost three times greater than the coal it came from, due to the weight of the oxygen from the air that it combines with. Furthermore, because CO2 is a gas, its volume is vastly greater than the volume of the coal it came from. Even if you freeze the emissions to liquid CO2, they are too big and heavy to stuff back down the hole that the coal came from (from which it would escape to the atmosphere anyway, as it warmed and regasified).
The amount is huge: a plant of this nature has a typical life span of 50 years, so it will emit around 790 million tons of CO2 in its lifetime. See the problem yet? Someone has to find a geostable rock formation with enough space to hold 790 million tons of CO2, and to hold it underground forever, never to seep back to the surface. For ONE new coal fired power plant.
CO2 is already injected into formations that used to be oil sites, in order to recover the full oil holdings. But if the legislation for this CCS process is similar to what was almost passed in the U.S., then existing oil and gas fields would be specifically prohibited from using this CO2 sequestration process. Completely new ‘green fields’ must be found.
The process can never be realized on the scale required.
We just can’t store it fast enough
Let’s construct one of these new technology USC power plants with CCS, and pretend that (a) the money is no problem and (b) there is a ‘hole in the ground’ big enough to hold the CO2. So there is a pumping station at the storage site, and pipelines from the plant to the site.
A new USC pant has two turbines, and each turbine/generator unit will have to have its own CCS unit. At full generating capacity, the furnace of each unit will be consuming one ton of crushed powdered coal every ten seconds, and emitting CO2 at the rate of one ton every 3.5 seconds.
We need to capture the exhaust, and CO2 has to be separated from the rest, all at the same rate of 1 ton every 3.5 seconds.
The process of separating the CO2 from the exhaust could be achieved in a couple of ways, but the current (seemingly) best option is by injecting all the exhaust gas into a solvent and boiling the solvent. Only the CO2 is given off by the boiling, thus separating the CO2 from all the other exhaust from the plant. However this must also be achieved at the same rate as the exhaust is being emitted.
Then the CO2 has to be cooled by placing it under extreme pressure to be liquefied, and this is where the electricity cost skyrockets. The process decreases its volume considerably, but the weight remains the same. So here we have a one ton of gaseous CO2 converted to one ton of liquid CO2. Liquefied CO2 weighs in at 8.8 pounds per gallon. So one ton of the gas must become 255 gallons of liquid. It must be produced at 73 gallons a second, the same rate as it is being emitted.
Two turbines means the output is 145 gallons every second. Think how long it takes to pump 10 gallons of petrol into your car. This liquid CO2 now has to be pumped down the pipeline under high pressure and at low temperature all the way from the plant to the hole in the ground.
At the storage site another large pumping site injects the liquid CO2 into the ground. As the liquid goes deeper into the ground it warms, reverting to its gaseous form and greatly expanding in volume.
You cannot do it at any other rate other than what it is being emitted at, because you cannot store the liquid CO2, not on that scale, and with it still being emitted from the plant.
Can you see now why I can be so confident when I say this will never be achieved on the scale required?
Yet it is still pointed at as being horrendously expensive, because, hey, look at that LCOE. Hugely expensive. Why would you not go down the Renewable path instead?
See why they just say ….. ‘Clean Coal’. How easy is that.
– Anton Lang
For the purpose of explanation here, I have used Imperial measures both for weight, one ton being 2240 pounds, and an imperial gallon of CO2 weighing 8.8 Pounds.