American Electric Power’s (AEP’s) long-awaited validation of advanced carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technologies at its Mountaineer Plant in New Haven, W.Va., was formally kicked off on Friday. The project is being watched closely around the world because it will be the first to capture carbon dioxide from a pulverized coal-fired power plant as well as inject it into a permanent storage site more than 7,800 feet underground.

The Mountaineer CCS demonstration project, which began capturing CO2 on Sept. 1 and storing it Oct. 2, is designed to capture at least 100,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, AEP officials said.

AEP’s 1,300-MW Mountaineer Plant was retrofitted earlier this year with Alstom’s patented chilled ammonia CO2 capture technology on a 20-MWe portion, or “slipstream,” of the plant’s exhaust “flue gas.” The slipstream of flue gas is chilled and combined with a solution of ammonium carbonate, which absorbs the CO2 to create ammonium bicarbonate. The ammonium bicarbonate solution is then pressurized and heated in a separate process to safely and efficiently produce a high-purity stream of CO2 . The CO2 will be compressed and piped for storage into deep geologic formations, roughly 1.5 miles beneath the planet’s surface. Approximately 90% of the CO2 from the 20-MWe slipstream will be captured and permanently stored.

“Commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential part of a successful strategy to address climate change, not only for the United States, which relies on coal-fired generation for about half of its electricity supply, but also for coal-dependent nations around the world,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman, president and CEO, on Friday.

AEP has applied for federal stimulus funding to scale up the Alstom chilled ammonia technology to 235 MWe at Mountaineer Plant. The proposed commercial-scale demonstration will capture and geologically store approximately 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

“Mountaineer, which is at the leading edge of all our demonstration projects worldwide, demonstrates the integration of all three stages of the process—capture, transport, and storage,” said Alstom Power President Philippe Joubert. “We reaffirm our commitment to making commercial carbon capture offerings by 2015.”

Morris and Joubert were joined at the commissioning event on Oct. 30 by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.).

Sources: AEP, POWERnews