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Chu Earmarks $2.4B for Clean Coal

Breathing fresh life into the possibility of new coal-fired power plant development, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu late last week pledged that $2.4 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be used to expand and accelerate commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Speaking before the National Coal Council, Chu said the funding is part of the Obama administration's effort to develop technologies to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas and contributor to global climate change, while creating new jobs.

"To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we must accelerate our efforts to capture and store carbon in a safe and cost-effective way," said Chu. "This funding will both create jobs now and help position the United States to lead the world in CCS technologies, which will be in increasing demand in the years ahead."

Chu's announcement comes as welcome news to a much maligned energy segment. Coal-fired generating plants currently in operation are coming under fire from environmentalists, while some companies with plans for new plants are shelving or scrapping their proposals. Coal is also being bashed at the federal level after Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said late last month that he sees few, if any, new nuclear or coal generators being part of the energy future (see NGI, April 27).

The Department is posting notices of intent to issue this funding for six initiatives. Chu said $1.52 billion will be used for a two-part competitive solicitation for large-scale CCS from industrial sources. The industrial sources include cement plants, chemical plants, refineries, steel and aluminum plants, manufacturing facilities and petroleum coke-fired and other power plants. The second part of the solicitation will include concepts for beneficial CO2 reuse (CO2 mineralization, algae production, etc.) and CO2 capture from the atmosphere. In addition, two existing industrial and innovative reuse projects, previously selected via competitive solicitations, will be expanded to accelerate scale-up and field testing.

Eight hundred million dollars will be used to expand the Department of Energy's (DOE) Clean Coal Power Initiative, which provides government co-financing for new coal technologies that can help utilities cut sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants from power plants. The funding will allow researchers broader CCS commercial-scale experience by expanding the range of technologies, applications, fuels and geologic formations that are tested.

Chu said $20 million is earmarked for Ramgen modification, which will allow the industrial-sized scale-up and testing of an existing advanced CO2 compression project with the objective of reducing time to commercialization, technology risk and cost. The Arizona Public Services modification will get $70.6 million, which will permit the existing algae-based carbon mitigation project to expand testing with a coal-based gasification system. The goal is to produce fuels from domestic resources while reducing atmospheric CO2 emissions. The overall process will minimize production of carbon dioxide in the gasification process to produce a substitute natural gas from coal. The host facility for this project is the Cholla Power Plant located in Holbrook, AZ.

Fifty million dollars will fund a competitive solicitation to characterize a minimum of 10 geologic formations throughout the United States. Chu said projects will be required to complement and build upon the existing characterization base created by DOE's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships, looking at broadening the range and extent of geologic basins that have been studied to date. The goal of this effort is to accelerate the determination of potential geologic storage sites.

Geologic sequestration training and research will receive $20 million to educate and train a future generation of geologists, scientists, and engineers with skills and competencies in geology, geophysics, geomechanics, geochemistry and reservoir engineering disciplines needed to staff a national CCS program.

The DOE said the funding from the Recovery Act is a direct investment in CCS-related infrastructure encompassing a diverse portfolio of research and demonstration among electric power and industrial facilities, academic institutions, and other organizations operating across the United States. The government agency hopes the projects will stimulate private-sector infrastructure investments due to the significant amount of cost sharing that will occur in all large-scale projects to be selected for implementation.

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