The week brought important policy and technology news concerning carbon capture and storage (CCS) from around the world. President Barack Obama unveiled a task force to make “clean coal” a reality as the European Union struck a major deal with member states for CCS funding. Caterpillar joined the FutureGen Alliance, and Siemens Energy said it would conduct a feasibility study for a novel postcombustion CCS system in West Virginia.

Obama: CCS Task Force Could Bring Several Demo Projects Online by 2016

The White House last week announced it would create a new interagency task force charged with speeding up deployment of technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants.

In a Feb. 3 memorandum, President Obama ordered the establishment of the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage within 180 days with the explicit goal of overcoming the barriers of “widespread, cost-effective deployment of CCS within 10 years.” The task force would seek to bring five to 10 commercial demonstration plants online by 2016.

“The plan should explore incentives for commercial CCS adoption and address any financial, economic, technological, legal, institutional, social, or other barriers to deployment,” the president’s memo reads. “The Task Force should consider how best to coordinate existing administrative authorities and programs, including those that build international collaboration on CCS, as well as identify areas where additional administrative authority may be necessary.”

The task force will be co-chaired by representatives from the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency and will include participants from at least nine different agencies and offices.

The memo also points to the administration’s push for cap-and-trade legislation. “Ultimately, comprehensive energy and climate legislation that puts a cap on carbon pollution will provide the largest incentive for CCS because it will create stable, long-term, market-based incentives to channel private investment in low carbon technologies,” it states.

The task force would serve as part of a “new” strategy to quickly clear the way for clean coal, which the memo said was “essential” to help the U.S. become a leader in the “global clean energy race.”

“My Administration’s new CCS strategy will pave the way for this energy transition by identifying and removing barriers to rapid commercial deployment and by providing greater legal and regulatory clarity,” the memo adds.

Source: The White House

EU Deal Could Yield Up to €10 Billion for CCS Demos

An agreement reached on Tuesday between the European Commission (EC) and some member states will allow the European Union (EU) to direct billions of euros to build and test up to a dozen CCS demonstration plants by 2015.

EU member country leaders had adopted a proposal in December 2008 to use revenues from the sale of 300 million carbon permits under the EU’s emissions trading scheme to help finance CCS demonstration plants. But some member states had expressed concerns about CCS because it has not yet been shown to work on a large scale at commercially viable rates. The funds would have better been used to fund renewable energy sources, they said.

The Financial Times quoted a UK minister of parliament, Chris Davies, as saying that the agreement could yield some €10 billion in public funding for CCS in Europe.

The newspaper also reports that under the final agreement, the EC and the European Investment Bank will have a final say as to which projects receive funding. The bank will also reportedly oversee the sale of the permits, which will ultimately determine how much money is available.

Sources: EU, Financial Times

Caterpillar Joins FutureGen Alliance

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar on Monday announced it would join the FutureGen Alliance, just days after Exelon Corp. made a similar announcement.

The company said in a statement that its decision to help fund and build that 275-MW integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plant was based on its “commitment to technologies and policies that slow, stop and reverse the growth of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.”

The company’s announcement to join FutureGen follows the abrupt withdrawal by major coal-burning utilities American Electric Power (AEP) and Southern Co. last year to pursue their own projects to capture and store carbon emissions. The companies left the alliance with only nine members, most of which are multinational coal companies or foreign power companies. These include Peabody Energy Corp., BHP Billiton, Germany’s E.ON, and the China Huaneng Group.

Exelon joined the consortium in January, saying that coal was an important part of the nation’s energy supply.

The project has suffered several financial setbacks. At the last estimate, project costs for FutureGen stood at about $2.4 billion, with construction expected to cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion. Last June, the DOE pledged $1.073 billion to the project—$1 billion of which would come from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds for CCS research.

The project still requires considerable private funding, however. The FutureGen Alliance has indicated it would like to add several more partners to the project.

Asked about the DOE’s role in the FutureGen project, Secretary Steven Chu told a Senate panel in a hearing last week that he hoped to have a decision regarding the project “in a couple of weeks, certainly by mid-March.”

“We clearly want [the FutureGen Alliance] to put together a successful package, but it clearly remains to be seen,” he said. Pressed about whether the DOE was “forward-leaning” on the project, Chu said that some of the main issues for the department involved the project’s costs and whether the alliance would be able to get new partners. “We don’t want a huge overhang on our budget in the future regarding that,” he said.

Sources: Caterpillar, POWERnews, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Siemens to Conduct Feasibility Study for Postcombustion System at Longview Plant

Siemens Energy is to conduct a study analyzing the applicability of its postcombustion carbon technology at Longview Power’s 695-MW power generation facility under construction in Maidsville, W.V.

The German company said it would assess whether its second-generation amino acid salt postcombustion process could be applied to Longview’s planned $2 billion advanced supercritical pulverized coal plant. Siemens is expected to conduct process design activities as well as to provide power generation equipment.

The company said it provided the air quality control system (AQCS) and that it was therefore in a “unique position” to optimize the existing AQCS to accommodate the postcombustion technology.

Siemens said that successful completion of the feasibility study for Longview could help establish the necessary parameters to allow a demonstration plant to be realized.

Sources: Siemens Energy, Longview Power