Renew On Line (UK) 57

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 157 Sept-Oct 2005

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1.   £40m for Carbon Abatement:
Clean coal/ CCS arrives

2.   Renewables are the priority:
Tidel gets pushed

3.   Wave power Developments:
Juiced in England, sold off in Scotland

4.   Wind developments:
Skye battles

5.   Intermittency? No problem!  
ECI and SDC agree

6.   Diversity is the Key
say the Council for Science and Technology

7.   Commons on Energy:
Select Committee reactions

8.   REFIT beats RO: 
it costs less

9.   UK roundup- the '40% House'
Solar PV fears

10. New BREW to cut waste:
efficiency for business

11. Global Developments: 
US, Australia, China, new Pact

12. EU round up:

13. Nuclear Developments:
'5000 new reactors', MOX ,ITER

1. £40m for Carbon Abatement

The government has produced a pioneering £25m plan to tackle climate change by capturing carbon dioxide  from power plants and storing it in depleted North Sea oil and gas fields. The DTI says that carbon capture and storage demonstration projects could be up and running within a decade. 

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks commented. “Reaching our ambitious target of cutting carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 means action now to support emerging technologies that will enable us to burn coal and gas more cleanly. At the same time, with major expansion of coal fired power generation expected in China and India, we want to put the UK at the forefront of what could be a valuable new export opportunity. We’ve consulted the industry closely and it’s clear that the long term benefits of capture and storage, which could reduce emissions from power plant by up to 85%, merit significant investment now.”  He added “We must, of course, maintain the push toward renewables and energy efficiency that deliver cuts in emissions here and now. But cleaning up our use of fossil fuels, developing the vast potential of hydrogen and fuel cells, and keeping UK industry on the front foot is a vital long term objective.”

The DTI says that the Carbon Abatement Technology Strategy will “advance all forms of carbon abatement technologies, including improving the efficiency and co-firing existing power plant with low carbon alternatives such as biomass, but the demonstration of carbon capture and storage is the most radical of the options and sets the new strategy apart from the previous Clean Coal Technology programme”.

In addition the government has launched a £15m Hydrogen Strategy. This will include demonstration programmes for hydrogen and fuel cells and the establishment of a Hydrogen Coordination Unit and, the DTI said ‘represents a step change in the Government’s commitment to hydrogen energy. Previously disparate efforts on hydrogen and fuel cells R&D will be brought together for the first time within an overall strategy. It will help to ensure that the UK’s participation in international initiatives such as the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy is fully effective and benefits both the UK and our international partners.’

Adam Chase from E4Tech, who was involved in the development of the new hydrogen/fuel cell strategy, commented: “Our analysis showed that hydrogen could provide competitive low carbon energy for transport from a range of secure energy sources. No other energy carrier offers all of these benefits. Although the technical and economic challenges are significant, hydrogen’s long term potential is so great that the UK should put itself on a path to reap these benefits. A Hydrogen Co-ordination Unit and increased support for R&D and large scale demonstration projects are important ways to ensure that this is achieved.”


Greenpeace:We have no objection in principle to the capture of carbon dioxide and its storage in underground formations, but the pursuit of this technology is a distraction from the real priorities of implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies which are available right now. We’ve given tax breaks to companies for getting oil and gas out of the ground, we shouldn’t subsidise them to put the subsequent pollution back underground.’  

The Green Party:  Carbon storage is‘an expensive and potentially damaging diversion. The Government insists on pursuing these short-term, uncertain techno-fixes, which do nothing but postpone the day when they have to wake up and start urgently, radically changing our economy to one based on renewable energy. Sequestration itself, which is only effective on new fossil fuel plants, will take at least ten years to even be put into place and by then- under business as usual- the effects of climate change may be irreversible. This uncertain technology merely drives CO2 underground for 1000s of years, and, like nuclear power, leaves future generations of human and animal life vulnerable from leaks. Meanwhile, the very act of investing money into sequestration sanctions the continuation of fossil fuel use and syphons money away from the Green energy industries. Nothing must divert attention away from the top priorities; going all out for energy saving, getting cracking on building solar, wave and wind farms as fast as is practicable, and setting robust, global targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.'

BP: The North Sea can take the entire emissions from power generation for Europe for the next 60 years’.  Iain Wright, of  BP told the Observer (June 12), that CSS works out at around  $75 a tonne of carbon saved- well below the estimates for renewables and nuclear in the 2003 energy White Paper.

Clean Coal and CCS

Clean coal is getting a lot of positive spin put on it these days (see above), especially by those who are keen to get coal mining back into play- see below. The emphasis is on Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plants (IGCC)- which, as a first step, gassify the coal to produce a mixture of gases including hydrogen and methane, ready for a  use in a  gas turbine, with the still hot exhaust gases then being used to raise steam for a final stage conventional steam turbine.  Given the extra gasification stage, and the fact that coal is more expensive/kWh than gas, this system is more expensive (in £/kW and £/kWh) than conventional Combined Cycle gas turbines, but the overall energy conversion efficiency is nearly as high, and of course there is a lot more coal in the world than there is gas. Moreover countries like China seem bound to expand their use of coal, so there is merit in coming up with technology that uses it as cleanly as possible. The UK is clearly keen to get into the potentially large export market for this technology.  However at best IGCC would only reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30-40% from what they would be if only a conventional coal plants was used. To go any further you would need to capture the carbon dioxide and store it (‘CCS’).

As it happens, IGCC technologies make it a bit easier to capture the CO2 -it can be extracted at the first pre-combustion gassification stage, although that adds to the cost, as does storage. One idea is to offer IGCC plants to China which are ‘CCS ready’, i.e. they are designed so that a CCS system can be added at a latter stage.  However, some see the ‘capture-ready’ idea as an excuse for delaying dealing with the problem. David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center told the Christian Science Monitor (June 2) that “building new coal-fired plants and betting on vague claims and future promises of technology at least a decade behind IGCC is a bad bet. We’ve got gasification plants capturing CO2  today.”

Nearer to home, in an open letter to politicians at both Westminster and Cardiff, Tyrone O’Sullivan, who led the workers’ buyout that saved the once-doomed Tower Colliery in  S. Wales, has argued that by adopting clean coal technology, ‘it would be possible to expand the industry without contributing to global warming’.   He told the Western Mail (25 May): ‘Nuclear energy is being posed as our only choice in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But this claim is based on a fallacy. There are an array of clean coal technologies available today that make it possible to generate electricity cleanly from coal’.  He noted that IGCC technology was already being used in some plants in the USA, Europe and Japan and explained that ‘in the IGCC process, coal is gasified. Pre-combustion carbon and sulphur capture then take over to produce a clean hydrogen gas. This is the gas that turns the electricity generating turbines. The result? Extremely clean energy.’   No mention of CCS though.

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