TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker or making a Paypal contribution here: paypal.me/SupportTMC

UK Government gives go-ahead to new 'clean' coal plants

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by dpeilow, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
  2. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #3 TEG, Apr 23, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2009
    Where / how do they plan to store the captured CO2?

    UK government set to announce CCS coal-fed plant plans: ministry
    Where is CO2 Stored?

    OK , there are plans, and a few sites are online... But I saw a news story that said many communities are rejecting underground CO2 storage for fear of what happens if it starts to leak out. Also capture and storage can be cost prohibitive.

    Coal is Dirty | Carbon Capture and Storage is a Myth

    New Greenpeace report exposes CCS as a dangerous distraction | Greenpeace USA
     
  3. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Messages:
    8,572
    Location:
    Winchester, UK
    The report on BBC TV News showed an animation of CO2 from several power stations being aggregated and pumped via a pipeline to a rig in the North Sea, where it would be sent under the seabed to pockets vacated by natural gas. Yes, really.
     
  4. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    Messages:
    17,249
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    Using the map of active sites (of which there is only one listed in North America), I follow links and find wording like "research project", "test operation", "study the complex nature of long term storage", & "evaluation of various technologies". This doesn't sound like a technology that is ready to be used at any kind of scale.

    Carbon capture and storage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    It does seem like the technology does have some potential, and could be worked out eventually, but wouldn't we be better off just spending the government money directly on alternative energy (e.g.: Solar & Wind) rather than trying to prolong the coal burning? The carbon is already well sequestered in the coal!
     
  5. graham

    graham Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,572
    Location:
    Aptos, California
    It is true that politicians and the coal industry want "clean coal" to seem like closer to reality than it is.

    That being said, coal packs too much energy and is too abundant in the world to not spend some money trying to make its use cleaner.

    Coal is going to be used. If not in this country then in another. Better work on ways to make it less of an environmental disaster.
     
  6. johnr

    johnr Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    255
    First of all, it seems incredibly stupid for the UK to shut off so many of their nuclear plants only to replace them with coal plants. I thought they were on track to replace them all with wind power - but given a choice between coal and nuclear, I see nuclear as the lesser evil. We all know there's really no such thing as "clean coal" since coal by necessity involves large-scale land removal.

    Secondly, I'm concerned about the CO2 they would have to pump underground. It's likely to begin leaking out eventually and such leaks would probably go undetected. It might even pose a potential disaster for nearby caves.
     
  7. Chris H.

    Chris H. Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    326
    Location:
    Canada
    Carbon capture and sequestration is possible, and can probably be scaled up eventually. The real problem lies in the economics. I made the following post a few days ago on the ABC News site:

    RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as 'Indentured Servant' to Coal Industry - ABC News

    "Clean coal technology exists, the problem is that it is not economically viable. To capture, liquefy, transport, and then store (forever) CO2 is very energy intensive, and therefore very expensive. If the coal industry were to implement this technology, the electricity they generated would cost about 10x more than it does today. That means it would be much more expensive than solar, wind, geothermal, wave, nuclear, etc. The coal industry knows this. They've done the math (or more likely, they hired someone to do it for them...), which is why they keep promising CCT, but never deliver because it would make them uncompetitive and eventually put them out of business.
    Don't hold your breath for clean coal technology to be implemented by the coal industry, because it's not going to happen. Smart people are focusing on enhanced geothermal which has a small environmental footprint, can run 24/7/52, and does not burn fossil fuels. Google it.
    Also, the comment above about converting CO2 into methanol is misguided. It can be done, but requires a massive input of energy and hydrogen gas (which has to be generated from methane), which again makes it very expensive, and not economically viable. Plus, when we burn the methanol we end up releasing the CO2 we were trying to contain... it's a lose-lose situation."

    I admit that the "10x" figure is an estimate, but I think if you include the cost of long term monitoring, and possible future intervention to prevent CO2 release, that it's not unrealistic. In any case, CC & S makes electricity from coal far more expensive than competing renewables. It's also worthwhile remembering that even the best carbon capture technologies only manage to trap about 80% of the CO2 emissions from a smokestack. Finally, there is always the concern that the CO2 will not remain "sequestered", and that geological activity could result in a catastrophic release into the atmosphere, thus creating the exact scenario we were trying to avoid.

    It's disappointing to hear that the UK government is putting tax payer's money into this, especially since the UK essentially doesn't even have a coal industry any more.

    National Coal Board - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    British Coal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    UK Coal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  8. Chris H.

    Chris H. Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    326
    Location:
    Canada
    johnr,

    you're absolutely right. I forgot to mention the damage that is done extracting the coal from the ground in the first place. Thanks for bringing it up.
     
  9. Chris H.

    Chris H. Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    326
    Location:
    Canada
    It's too bad that Ed Miliband (British Secretary for Energy & Climate Change) didn't study science in school...

    With so many well educated people in the world today, I find it puzzling why governments can't seem to find the right people (with an appropriate educational background) to fill important cabinet posts... :confused:
     
  10. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    14,792
    Location:
    CA CA
    Was sort of looking for a place to put this

    FERC chair on new nuclear and coal plants: “We may not need any, ever.”

    My favorite bit.
    Doing this also makes our power supplies less of a national security risk.
     
  11. stopcrazypp

    stopcrazypp Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2007
    Messages:
    7,035
    This is exactly the direction we should be moving in if we want to make a serious dent in our carbon emissions and have a maintainable grid. It probably won't be easy to get there, but if we do then there would be relatively few worries left in terms of energy generation, especially with a parallel move to plug-ins.
     
  12. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Messages:
    8,572
    Location:
    Winchester, UK
    Well, there are also plans to build a new generation of nuclear plants. We've had a lot of worthy studies (a la low carbon vehicles study I posted yesterday), but possible sites were finally recently announced (BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | New nuclear site options unveiled), with a view to having the first operational. How have we ended up in this situation? The cynical would say that we basically didn't have an energy policy for 10 years and that the government failed to grasp the nettle of needed to build new nuke plants (it goes against the grain for a lot of their party membership). However, there was a need to reform the planning process as attempts to build new plants in the '90s failed at the planning/public enquiry stage. This has meant both running existing facilities beyond their design life and a loss of expertise in the British industry, to the point where these plants will most likely be built and operated by French companies (no bad thing, their designs are significantly better than the last British PWR plant to open in the early '90s).

    All this dithering has allowed the coal lobby to gather pace with their CCS line, and truth be told the government can't now afford to put all their eggs in one basket as plants of all types will be coming to the end of their useful lives as any new capacity comes on line (some say before).

    The way our political system works, you tend to end up with career politicians getting elected to the House of Commons who, let's face it, don't tend to be drawn from scientific backgrounds and former captains of industry being nominated for the House of Lords, who tend to want to preserve the status quo.
     
  13. Chris H.

    Chris H. Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    326
    Location:
    Canada
    I think that this might help illustrate your point:

    YouTube - Mountaintop Removal Movie from iLoveMountains.org
     
  14. johnr

    johnr Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    255
    Yes, that illustrates it very well. Seems the destruction is even more widespread than I realized. Thanks Chris.
     
  15. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

    Joined:
    May 23, 2008
    Messages:
    8,572
    Location:
    Winchester, UK
    BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Go-ahead for 10 nuclear stations

     
  16. AntronX

    AntronX Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Messages:
    255
    Location:
    Miami, FL, USA
    Integrated gasification combined cycle coal plant technology looks interesting. It turns coal into gas, cleans gas from Sulphur and Mercury, burns gas in gas turbine at high temperature, exaust heat is hot enough to drive second steam cycle. I wonder if it makes more economical sense to upgrade old coal plants in US to this new, cleaner and more efficient technology vs. spending same money on solar PV and wind first in terms of CO2 and harmful emissions savings.
     

Share This Page