Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Clean Coal - too good to be true?

Today sees the release of a report supporting Clean Coal as a low carbon energy solution. I have here as my guest Energy Specialist Neil Crumpton, FOE Campaigner, Climate and Energy Team.

In a nutshell, what is clean coal?
Clean Coal is new coal technology where 90% emissions are capable of being captured and stored underground. A further benefit of Clean Coal is that air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, acid gases, dust and other toxins are much reduced.

What is FOE's position on clean coal?
As long as Clean Coal includes Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) we would be like to see demonstration projects. Clean Coal without CCS is approximately 20% more efficient than existing coal technology. However, without CCS it is still nearly twice as polluting as gas fired power stations and possibly three times as much as Combined Heat and Power plants (CHP). However, Clean Coal WITH CCS can capture 85-90% of the gases emitted, but this still needs demonstrating at large scale.

FOE would like to see a few clean Clean Coal with CCS demonstration schemes, preferably on industrial sites with good CHP potential. Therefore, the benefits of CHP and carbon capture are combined - both would be capable of sharing the same CO2 pipeline and the heat from the power station. A really well designed demonstration scheme on an industrial site could share the CO2 pipeline to an oil field in the North Sea (where the CO2 would be stored) and provide heat from the power station to nearby industrial processes. Hot water from the power station could then be usefully used by local industry.

Is this a better option than renewables?
No, but it could have a supporting role for our interim energy needs. If viable, it could be complementary to renewables in achieving substantial CO2 emission reduction in the short term. It could also potentially be useful in the transition to a low carbon economy based on renewable power over the next decade. Additionally, it could certainly avoid any new nuclear programme as Clean Coal would provide base load generation.

So, would it be correct to say - until Clean Coal test sites incorporating CCS with CHP plants have proven successful, FOE remains cautious?

The report released today, Clean Coal by Tony Lodge of the Centre for Policy Studies controversially states that FOE backs Powerfuel's new test site at Hatfield in Yorkshire. What do you say to that?
We have not even heard of Powerfuel's scheme, let alone supported it. This report completely misquotes our Executive Director Tony Juniper on the merits of renewables in relation to clean coal. This report is simply pro-nuclear anti-renewable propaganda.

Thank you Neil for putting us in the picture.
It's been a pleasure

Friends of the Earth

1 comment:

George Robinson said...

Interesting article regarding carbon capture, which at the moment is like trying to catch steam with a fishing net. Your remarks about emissions from caol fired power stations as twice as much as a gas fired power station is ok, I believe the figure for coal as approx 850, but the figure for CHP stations as being only one 3rd of that of coal, ???? A recent document out here in Sweden has put the figure as 77 fo a Swedish CHP station fueled by renewables and waste.