Matter Network recently reported that the first coal-fired power plant constructed to incorporate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology went online last month in Germany. Vattenfall, a Swedish power company, built the plant and will operate it as a pilot.
The system captures carbon dioxide from the plant’s flue gas, compresses it into a liquid and stores it underground. According to Vattenfall’s web site, most of the carbon dioxide will dissolve in reservoir water and slowly mineralize (see the project description here).
Vattenfall owns over 50 international patents and published applications directed to power generation technology. Much of the older technology relates to nuclear power, including cooling systems for nuclear power plants.
The company’s recent patents cover removal and separation of chemicals from water or flue gas, including WO 2004/112943 (Boron separation and recovery), WO 2004/026486 (Assembly for operating hydrocyclones, in particular for flue-gas desulphurisation plants), WO 2003/074430 (Nitrate removal), WO 2002/040406 (Process and apparatus for removal and destruction of dissolved nitrate), and WO 2001/027593 (A method and device for measuring, by photo-spectrometry, the concentration of harmful gases in the fumes through a heat-producing plant).
While the Vattenfall plant and CCS process produces almost zero carbon emissions, the Matter story points out that compressing and transporting carbon dioxide requires a lot of energy.
CCS may be an important transition technology, particularly in countries that get most of their power from coal plants, but processes that chemically transform carbon into innocuous materials are probably better long-term solutions than systems that require compression and transport of CO2.