‘Carbon sequestration’ - Greatest challenge of clean coal technology (‘FutureGen’ project) to deliver "zero emissions" in reality:
A present trend of clean coal technology is moving rapidly towards a very interesting phase, realizing efficiency improvements of coal. In fact, this clean coal technology together with the use of natural gas and renewables such as wind will not provide the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to meet future national targets. Naturally, a plant to produce hydrogen from coal and sequester emissions will be the world’s zero emission coal-fired plant – as envisaged for ‘FutureGen’ project.
As discussed earlier, the clean coal technology field is moving in the direction of coal gasification with a second stage so as to produce a concentrated and pressurized carbon dioxide stream followed by its separation and geological storage. This technology has the potential to provide what may be called "zero emissions" - in reality, extremely low emissions of the conventional coal pollutants, and as low-as-engineered carbon dioxide emissions.
A. The greatest challenge now is to sequester emissions by carbon capture and geological storage technology. The technology, known as carbon sequestration, has attracted global attention from industries and governments that are eager to capture and bottle up the gas that can linger in the atmosphere for decades.
B. Carbon capture and sequestration begins with the separation and capture of CO2 from power plant flue gas and other stationary CO2 sources. At present, this process is costly and energy intensive, accounting for the majority of the cost of sequestration. However, analysis shows the potential for cost reductions of 30–45 percent for CO2 capture. Post-combustion, pre-combustion, and oxy-combustion capture systems being developed are expected to be capable of capturing more than 90 percent of flue gas CO2.
C. The primary function of carbon sequestration research and development (R&D) objectives are:
(1) Lowering the cost and energy penalty associated with CO2 capture from large point sources; and
(2) Improving the understanding of factors affecting CO2 storage permanence, capacity, and safety in geologic formations and terrestrial ecosystems.
D. After capturing of carbon the next step is to sequester (store) the CO2; which has mainly two processes - (i) The primary means for carbon storage are injecting CO2 into geologic formations or (ii) using terrestrial applications.
(i) Geologic sequestration involves taking the CO2 that has been captured from power plants and other stationary sources and storing it in deep underground geologic formations in such a way that CO2 will remain permanently stored. Geologic formations such as oil and gas reservoirs, unmineable coal seams, and underground saline formations are potential options for storing CO2. Storage in basalt formations and organic rich shales is also being investigated.
(ii) Another form of sequestration is ‘terrestrial sequestration’, which involves the net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by plants and microorganisms that use CO2 in their natural cycles. Terrestrial sequestration requires the development of technologies to quantify with a high degree of precision and reliability the amount of carbon stored in a given ecosystem.
E. Any carbon sequestration program should involve (a) Core R&D, and (b) Demonstration & Deployment.
(a) Core R&D – Core R&D accomplished through laboratory and pilot-scale research, develops new technologies and systems for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources. Core R&D integrates basic research and computational sciences to study advanced materials and energy systems. It focuses on few major areas for technology development: (i) CO2 Capture, (ii) Carbon Storage, (iii) Monitoring, Mitigation, and Verification, (iv) Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gas Control, and (v) Breakthrough Concepts.
(b) Demonstration & Deployment – It speeds the development of new technologies through commercial opportunities and collaboration with Govt. departments. Core R&D scientists also learn practical lessons from these demonstration projects and are helpful to develop further technology solutions and innovations.
As mentioned above, this system along with use of natural gas and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar etc., will be advantageous in order to mitigate to a great extent in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to meet future national targets. Many countries see "zero emissions" coal technology as a core element of its future energy supply in a carbon-constrained world. They have program to develop and demonstrate the technology and have commercial designs for plants with an electricity cost of only 10% greater than conventional coal plants available by 2012.