BASF, RWE Power and the Linde Group agreed recently to develop a new processes for CO2 capture from combustion gases in coal-fired power plants. The collaboration will comprises the construction and operation of a pilot facility at the lignite-fired power plant of RWE Power AG in Niederaussem/Germany to test new developments and solvents from BASF for the capture of CO2 – so-called CO2 scrubbing. Linde is responsible for the engineering and the construction of the pilot facility.
“There is agreement among experts,” says Dr. Johannes Lambertz, Board member of RWE Power, “that coal will continue to be an important pillar in the global energy supply for decades to come. This is why we have set up a long-range CO2 avoidance strategy: we are building the most efficient coal-fired power plants in the world, and we are developing a new generation of power plants for tomorrow, with an efficiency of over 50 percent. We are already designing all our modern coal-fired power plants so that they can eventually be equipped with the CO2 capture technology that is currently being developed with BASF and Linde. The aim must be to set up not only highly modern plants from 2020, but also virtually carbon-neutral coal-fired power plants including storage.”
In late 2005 BASF announced that it had developed a novel amine-based solvent that is particularly efficient in removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plant emissions.
CO2 is removed from power plant emissions by means of chemical solvents which bind the CO2 in the first step. Then, when they are reconditioned, they release this CO2 before they are fed back to the process. To prevent the CO2 from escaping to the atmosphere, it is condensed and stored – for example in water-bearing strata of rock (aquifers), in mines or old oil and gas deposits. However, conventional solvents are easily degenerated by the oxygen contained in the power-plant waste gas, and the process also requires major input of energy to achieve the absorption, release and storage of CO2. Laboratory tests have shown the novel amine-based solvent from BASF to be much more stable than conventional solvents, which means that it can be used longer. It also consumes less energy in the process of absorbing and releasing CO2. A gas scrubbing process based on the new solvent can therefore substantially reduce the cost of CO2 removal.
RWE and BASF have been involved in the CASTOR project since early 2004, a research project that is sponsored by the European Union (EU) and which seeks to find methods to remove CO2 from combustion gases and to store it.
On 15 March 2006, the CASTOR CO2-capture industrial pilot unit was inaugurated at the Esbjerg power plant (Denmark), operated by Elsam where the amine-based solvent is being tested. It is the largest installation in the world that captures CO2 in the flue gases of a coal-fired power station.
The purpose of the new RWE pilot facility is the long-term testing of new solvents with a view to gaining an understanding of processes and plant engineering to improve CO2 capture technology. The goal is to apply CO2 capture commercially in lignite-fired power plants by 2020. The new technology should enable the removal of more than 90 percent of CO2 from the combustion gas of a power plant and then subsequently to store this gas underground.
Once the pilot tests are successfully completed, they will decide on a subsequent demonstration plant in 2010. This will be designed to provide a reliable basis for the commercialization of the new process. RWE Power has earmarked a budget of approximately €80 million for the development project, including the construction and operation of the pilot facility and demonstration plant.
This development is in competition with the ECO2 technology using an ammonia-based solution that Powerspan is developing as described in this previous post. Pilot scale testing of ECO2 technology is expected to begin at the Burger plant in early 2008. The ECO2 pilot unit will process a 1-megawatt (MW) slipstream (20 tons of CO2/day) from the 50-MW Burger ECO unit. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) studies indicate that the ammonia-based CO2 capture process could provide significant savings compared to commercially available amine-based CO2 capture technologies.
I presume that the amine-based technologies that DOE studied were not using the solvent developed by BASF or the process configuration was different. In any event it is always good to see competition in technology. One thing I don't understand is why we will have to wait until 2020 for the commercializtion of the BASF/RWE process.