Harvard stunner: “Realistic” first-generation CCS costs a whopping $150 per ton of CO2 — 20 cents per kWh!

Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has published a blockbuster study, “Realistic Costs of Carbon Capture.” The paper concludes that First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) carbon capture and storage plants are going to be much more expensive than most people realize:

1.  The costs of carbon abatement on a 2008 basis for FOAK IGCC plants are expected to be approximately $150/tCO2 avoided (with a range $120-180/tCO2 avoided), excluding transport and storage costs….

This yields “levelised cost of electricity on a 2008 basis is approximately 10¢/kWh higher with capture than for conventional plants.”  So pick your favorite price for new coal plants — Moody’s said last year that is about 11¢/kWh — and add 10¢ and you get 20+¢/kWh.

We’re talking nuclear power prices (see “$26 Billion cost “” $10,800 per kilowatt! “” killed Ontario nuclear bid“).

But all is not lost for CCS, because we have many optimistic assumptions yet to be thrown in:

2.  2008 may have represented a peak in costs for capital-intensive projects. If capital costs de-escalate, as appears to be happening, then these costs may decline. If general cost levels were to return to those prevailing in 2005 to 2006, for example, the costs of abatement for FOAK plants would fall by perhaps 25-30% to a central estimate of some $110/tCO2 avoided (with a range of $90-135/tCO2 avoided).

3. Consequently, the realistic costs of FOAK plant seem likely to be in the range of approximately $100-150/tCO2.

Harvard’s analysis is a regular FOAK Festival!

But maybe 2008 is the normal price for capital intensive projects in a world building lots of new capital-intensive projects.  And maybe capital costs are dropping because we are in the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression….  Nah!

Yet even this optimism only gets you down to 18 cents per kWh, give or take a few cents.

Don’t worry, though, because we can make yet more optimistic assumptions.  Let’s hypothesize that the plants will drop in price “for more mature technologies (Nth-of-a-Kind plant),” which has been true of renewables, but isn’t so true of, say, big central station power plants like nuclear.

5.  The costs of subsequent solid-fueled plant (again excluding transport and storage) are expected to be $35-70/tCO2 on a 2008 basis, reducing to $25-50/tCO2 allowing for capex de-escalation.

Ahh, capex de-escalation.  It’s like a warm ocean that you can dive into and get lost forever.

The bottom line is that these plants are gonna cost a staggering amount of money if anyone ever actually started building them.  And without a couple of miracles occurring, they will still cost a lot in, say, 2025.  That is not the biggest shock to CP readers (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“), but it may be surprising to some:

6.  The FOAK estimates are higher than many published estimates. This appears to represent a combination of previous estimates preceding recent capital cost inflation, greater knowledge of project costs following this more detailed study, and the additional costs of FOAK plants compared with the NOAK costs quoted in any published estimates.

But wait, we have one final knight in shining armor to rescue new CCS plants so they aren’t just plain FOAKs :

7.  The value of EOR [enhanced oil recovery] can reduce the net cost of CCS to the economy to zero as oil prices approach approximately $75/bbl for FOAK plants if the full net value of the EOR accrues to the project.

Yes, if we allow the captured CO2 to be used to extract more oil from currently unprofitable wells, then the net cost of FOAKs vanishes.

Only two problems.  First, while it may be okay to do a couple of experimental plants with EOR — assuming you can actually build them near a place where you have a lot of such oil wells, like Texas — you certainly wouldn’t want to make a habit out of this since the recovered oil, when burned, will release just about as much carbon dioxide as you “sequestered” underground, rendering the whole effort kind of pointless from a climate perspective (see “Rule Four of Offsets: No Enhanced Oil Recovery“).

Second, and more problematic I think, is that you would still be left with the cost of power of a new traditional coal plant which is greater than $0.10 a kilowatt hour.  Now why would you do that when you’ve probably got this overabundance of moderate price natural gas to run in existing combined cycle gas turbines?  Why would you do that when you can pair that natural gas with wind or concentrated solar power again for far lower emissions at a lower price, with no technology or price risk — and without having to rely on absurdly overoptimistic assumptions.  And don’t get me started on why the Harvard study makes all these absurdly optimistic assumptions about the future price of CCS, but refuses to do the same for CSP, even though the price drop in that technology is infinitely more inevitable.

Back in the real world, I can’t imagine we are going to build many CCS plants over the next two decades, except for the handful that get massive government subsidies.  In that regard, CCS is a lot like nuclear power.

A big hat tip to the best journalist in West Virginia, Ken Ward, Jr., for his Charleston Gazette story on this, “Carbon capture for coal costly, study finds.”

33 Responses to Harvard stunner: “Realistic” first-generation CCS costs a whopping $150 per ton of CO2 — 20 cents per kWh!

  1. paulm says:

    mmm…CO2 draw down is going to probably be as or more expensive.

    And if we don’t draw down to below 350ppm what are we going to do?

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Well, for those prices can probably do photosythetic air capture of CO2. The problem is the massive amount of land required. Like the entire Sahara Desert.

  3. Tim R. says:

    I thought enhanced oil recovery (EOR) only left about a third of the carbon dioxide in the ground anyway. So on top of the oil emissions, take away two-thirds of the effectiveness of the CCS in the first place if it is used for EOR, no?

    [JR: You have a link to a study?]

  4. J.A. Turner says:

    The beauty of a carbon trading scheme is that the cheapest CO2 reduction strategies that can scale up will win. It seems more likely than ever that CCS will at most fill a small niche, and that renewables and efficiency will be big winners. Instead of spending millions fighting cap and trade, coal companies ought to be diversifying as fast as they can, so that they can smoothly transition to low-carbon and carbon-free power generation.

  5. How about carbon capture, storage AND use in products as diverse as carbonated drinks, fire extinguishers, refrigerants, etc. A vast new carbon dioxide recycling industry has got to be one of the core climate solutions.

  6. Mark Shapiro says:

    Thank goodness that CCS is prohibitively expensive, because otherwise some rich, powerful people would like the idea of creating huge pools of an invisible, odorless asphyxiant under our feet.

    Not that I have anything against rich, powerful people — just against anti-social behavior.

    Richard –

    Good idea, but total industrial uses of CO2 are less than 1% of emissions.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Mark Shapiro (6) — The various sequestration schemes use some combination of great overpressure and the chemical affinity of CO2 for certain rocks to keep the CO2 “under your feet”. Of all the problems with CCS leakage is one of the very least.

  8. Mike#22 says:

    Some of us will have noted that Chu, Hansen, and others see CCS as a viable wedge.

    Unfortunately for the future, they will have to deal with CO2 cost in the +$100/ton range.

    $200/ton sounds OK. The bill is due.

    [JR: “Viable” is a word that covers a multitude of beliefs. If we ever get very serious about climate, the CO2 price will be north of $50 and then north of $100. I am quite certain neither believes it is one of the low cost solutions.]

  9. Omega Centuri says:

    Well we should still build a couple of technology demonstration plants. Obviously they will need some sort of grant/subsidy. But if it is possible for CCS to become affordable, we won’t get there by not making the initial investments. Initial pilot investments, are not supposed to be judged on the project return on investment, which we know is gonna suck, but on the possibility of learning something useful.

    Now I don’t hold out a lot of hope for CCS, but a modest investment early on just might prove to be useful.If for no other reason than to be able to say we tried.

    btw Jow, has your site been sabotaged. From my normalSuse 9.3 Linux w firefox the loading cannot proceed beyond the s7addthis. I’mtyping this from my wife’s Ubuntu machine.

    [JR: Seems to work on my laptop using Firefox and IE.]

  10. ian says:

    Yes, I’m afraid it is all correct. I worked on a C capture project in the 80’s where we hoped to produce a commercial product via carbonation. It all looked good on paper but scale-up and commercialisation was doomed – lost millions. It would be even worse if you don’t have a product to sell.

  11. progress says:

    Gee, maybe the skeptics are right when they say cap and trade will cause electricity cost to skyrocket and kill energy intensive manufacturing in the US.

    [JR: Fortunately, we have so many low cost option the cost will stay low for a long time.]

  12. Brett Jason says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier, cheaper and save a whole lot of time to just forget about CCS where coal is concerned and simply take all the money earmarked for cleaning up coal and use it to covert existing coal plants to burn natural gas? That cuts the emissions compared to coal burning by 50% practically overnight. Then over the next 20 years those gas-fired plants would be phased out completely with sustainable alternatives as the natural gas starts to run out.

    This is all so obvious. Why is Energy Secretary Chu so determined to waste huge amounts of our country’s time and money on the fool’s game of trying to clean up coal? Coal is a dirty lump of compressed carbon, fer cryin’ out loud. It will never be clean no matter what kind of technological tuxedo you try to dress it up in.

  13. BBHY says:

    The coal industry has always known that CCS is never going to be feasible. They are working on it because:

    * They get huge amounts of government money
    * They get make it look like they are actually trying to do something about CO2
    * It takes away momentum from anti-coal efforts because “soon coal will be clean, so just give it a little more time”.
    * They get to continue business as usual while they “develop” CCS technology
    * Eventually they will just claim, “We tried, we really tried, but it’s just too expensive, so we’ll just have to keep burning coal the way we always have”

  14. Brendan says:

    You often times talk about the cost-competitiveness of various alternative energies (Solar Thermal, Wind). I was wondering if at some point you could post links to some of your sources for those numbers. I’ve found it hard to find credible sources with numbers.

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but it seems to me that when news stories talk about a new coal plant it’s always “$500 million in new jobs”, but when it’s renewables no one wants to say the price (and the implication I often see is that it’s a lot of money, but ignoring the new job part).

  15. progressive says:

    re Brendan’s question re cost-competitiveness, here is one assessment comparing large scale wind energy to nuclear power:

  16. john says:

    The kicker in this study is that these huge costs are “exclusive of transport and storage.” The volume of CO2 that would need to be tranported and “stored” is equvalent to the volume of all oil and gas currently in commerce. One could assume the magnitude of the infrastructure needed to handle this much CO2is equivalent to all that we’ve put into transporting hydrocarbons since the turn of the last century. I’m not sure what that is, but it certainly would require capital expenditures on the order of $trillions.

    So, actual sequestration costs could be the tail wagging the dog.

  17. Wouldn’t it be easier, cheaper and save a whole lot of time to just forget about CCS where coal is concerned and simply take all the money earmarked for cleaning up coal and use it to covert existing coal plants to burn natural gas? That cuts the emissions compared to coal burning by 50% practically overnight. Then over the next 20 years those gas-fired plants would be phased out completely with sustainable alternatives as the natural gas starts to run out.

    This is all so obvious. Why is Energy Secretary Chu so determined to waste huge amounts of our country’s time and money on the fool’s game of trying to clean up coal? Coal is a dirty lump of compressed carbon, fer cryin’ out loud. It will never be clean no matter what kind of technological tuxedo you try to dress it up in.

  18. Pete says:

    Joe, citing a Harvard study?
    Has MIT not covered CCS yet?

  19. Lou Grinzo says:


    Oops–looks like someone not only figured out the entire coal company playbook, but boiled it down to a set of bullet points and posted it on the Intertubes.

    All kidding aside, I think you’ve nailed it perfectly.

  20. Milan says:

    All this makes it even more worrisome that some jurisdictions (such as Alberta) are betting the farm on CCS proving cheap, quick to deploy, safe, and effective.

    In the event that it doesn’t meet those criteria, they don’t really have any other plan to fall back on.

  21. Jay Turner says:

    We don’t even need to convert very many plants to burn natural gas. We already have enough gas-burning plants to shut down all but a few coal plants as it is. It’s only in areas not adequately served by gas plants that need any new capacity to replace coal. All we really need at this point is either the will to regulate or a carbon price sufficient to drive coal out of business. The coal-industry blather about needing to burn coal for 40 more years is simply a fairy tale.

  22. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Joe-

    Regarding the CCS cost study-

    Most of the costs of CCS come from capturing the CO2 in the first place, which takes varying amounts of energy, depending on the process. Some published studies put the energy cost of capturing the CO2 at 90 percent of the total price.

    So, if you take an existing power plant, and just slap a post combustion amine CO2 stripper on it, and then include in all of the energy costs of compression and so on, the costs in the study are likely roughly accurate, although they look a little on the high side, to me.

    But this is not the way that a reasonable engineer would do this. A reasonable engineer would look for a cheaper way.

    Since the costs of carbon capture are so high, a reasonable engineer would look for a way to avoid or compensate for carbon capture energy costs.

    One way to do this would be to change to oxyfuel combustion and a topping cycle, such as the NETL’s HIPPS idea. These are both “bolt on” technologies, that could be retrofitted to existing coal fired power plants, and which could compensate for the energy cost of compressing the CO2 for deep injection and cryogenically separating the oxygen from the air with increased combustion efficiency.

    HIPPS alone, according to Clinton era estimates, could change a roughly 35% thermally efficient coal plant to a roughly 50% thermally efficient coal plant. Oxyfuel combustion looks like it would work well with HIPPS, and the increased temperatures and higher Carnot efficiency associated with oxyfuel might avoid the necessity for a natural gas boost to HIPPS.

    Look at it another way. The main cost is due to lost efficiency for CCS. If we can boost the efficiency of the plants, we can more than pay for the energy cost of the CCS. So, if we do it right, and increase the thermal efficiency of the plants, we get essentially free CCS, perhaps even CCS at a profit.

    I don’t really care about the coal plants, I just want to transform them into carbon negative biochar fuel plus CCS power plants. One way or another, they have to go. The best way to get rid of them, though, is to transform them into carbon negative power plants. These carbon negative ideas may in fact be the only way to “put the genie back in the bottle” and save us from runaway global warming.

    I’m working on my website, and hope to show calculations there, with increasing levels of detail, to support this position.

    I’ll read your study with interest, Joe. But it looks to me like a “straw man” approach, which calculates in great detail scenarios that a reasonable engineer would try to avoid.

    [JR: Not my study, Harvard’s. If your strategies are the common sense way to go, why does it not appear that anybody is doing it? I certainly want to cofire with biomass as much as possible, as I’ve said many times. Clinton-era estimates I’m afraid are likely quite out of date.]

  23. Jay Alt says:

    That’s an interesting report but my take is different. An Nth_Of_A_Kind CCS plant whose output costs just 2-5 cents/ Kwhr more (as projected) could be a good buy. This in comparison with solar PV, now at 25-50 cents/Kwhr. Will industry invest in such a gamble? Put a price on carbon and we’ll find out.

    [JR: “could”?]

    Twenty years ago the cost of solar PV was 10X higher than today. Despite inflation and economic gyrations the cost dropped. The deployment of photovoltaics was unsuccessfully opposed with the same ‘too expensive’ argument above. Further, the cost curves of the various firing system technologies studied by Belfer are already documented in the mechanical engineering literature. IIRC they range from 50 to 30%. So to suggest that CCS building costs might not drop as experience is gained because the plants are ‘large’ (like nuclear) is not credible.

    [JR: “suggest” … “might not drop” … “is not credible.” I see — your hedges are ok, but mine are not credible.]

    Pete, yes the MIT energy group studied the technology and recommended test CCS projects. There isn’t the slightest chance that a climate bill will leave the Senate without them. Finally, the Harvard report isn’t a ‘stunner’, since the costs projected with widespread deployment are well within the range of 7 previous studies (table 6).

    [JR: Sorry, dude, the FOAK costs are a “stunner” by any definition. If the multiple optimistic assumptions occur that “could” make CCS makes sense, well, why can’t the fewer optimistic assumptions occur for PV, CSP, etc? The biggest flaw in most of the technology presentations I sat through in my life has in the assumption that your favorite technology is going to plummet in costs, but everyone else’s is going to stay flat or rise.]

  24. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Joe-

    [JR: Not my study, Harvard’s. If your strategies are the common sense way to go, why does it not appear that anybody is doing it? I certainly want to cofire with biomass as much as possible, as I’ve said many times. Clinton-era estimates I’m afraid are likely quite out of date.]

    Yes, I know it’s from Harvard. I also know that Harvard gets millions of dollars from the conservative foundations like the Scaife and Bradley foundations, the energy corporations, and the arms corporations, which already puts a question mark next to this study in my mind.

    [JR: I should just delete the previous paragraph. It makes your other fine analysis less credible. This is NOT how anyone at Harvard works, certainly not at JFK school, which is typically viewed as LIBERAL, but is more like center-left.]

    We swim in a sea of commercially motivated disinformation. We all think we can distinguish between the good stuff and the industry funded crap. Most often, we can’t.

    As has been pointed out in the recent Senate hearings, before industry will actually bow to public and Congressional pressure and change, they trot out studies, perhaps like this one, to show that the cost of changing will be catastrophic. As has been pointed out, history shows that those cost estimates are generally wildly exaggerated. So with sufficient money, and our opponents certainly have that, it is possible to get studies published that make changing One’s industry seem almost arbitrarily expensive.

    Is this study an outlier from other published studies? They appear to say that they are.

    Regarding the Clinton era studies, these were real studies of the HIPPS idea by engineering firms like United Technologies and Bechtel, and are not so easily dismissed, I think. Regarding Oxyfuel, a small coal fired power plant has been retrofitted to oxyfuel combustion by the Jupiter Oxygen Corporation, and has shown efficiency gains of something like 6.5 percent even without a topping cycle, just from greater heat transfer. Also regarding oxyfuel, the pilot plant opened by Vattenfall in Germany uses oxyfuel and CCS.

    Certainly, the physics has not changed, since the Clinton administration, and economics follows physics.

    Like I say, thanks for publishing it. I will read it. I am skeptical of it.

    What you have shown, more than anything, with your terrific blog, is that we have many energy options, and are not locked into the status quo. I believe this is true of coal power, as wells as alternative energies.

    If biochar or biomass could be supplied at the same cost as coal, for example, combining this with CCS would already cut these estimates from Harvard at least in half, because they do not consider the use of carbon negative fuel sources like biomass or biochar, in their dollars/ton calculations.

    As a rule of thumb, I think we can pretty safely assume that all changes are easier and cheaper than Industry makes them out to be.

    Is there industry money behind this study?

    Well, American big business funds Harvard, for one thing.

  25. David B. Benson says:

    Leland Palmer (21) — Amine won’t work on flue gas; nitrogen poisons the process.

  26. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi David B. Benson-

    Well the amines I used to analyze at the lab I used to work at were used to scrub hydrogen sulfide, rather than CO2, and they did tend to get kind of degraded and cruddy (that’s a technical term…:)) over time. There are also irreversible losses of amines due to evaporation, I think, so you have to keep adding amine to the process, which is expensive. I’ve read something about a new class of amine-like scrubbing materials, though, which are said to have advantages over the old alkanol amines that I used to test.

    If nitrogen degrades them, it’s hard for me to see how they could be so widely used in hydrogen sulfide scrubbers in oil refineries around the world. Perhaps you are right, but this is the first I have heard of this.

    The reason I’m not too enthusiastic about amine scrubbers or post combustion CO2 capture in general is that it takes a lot of heat to run these processes, and this decreases the thermal efficiency of the power plant. Unlike oxyfuel, post combustion CO2 scrubbing doesn’t appear to offer any technological advantages such as higher temperature combustion leading to higher Carnot efficiency. So, there’s a parasitic loss with no particular efficiency advantage that I know of, although a HIPPS topping cycle could be added to these plants, too.

    So it’s possible that someone will come up with some new improved amine process to replace the one used in the past, for post combustion scrubbing of CO2. But the real way to go, which opens up the possibility of paying for the CCS with increased efficiency due to higher temperature combustion, is oxyfuel combustion combined with a topping cycle, to substantially increase the efficiency of the combustion process, IMO. Increasing the combustion efficiency of these old dinosaur plants,, and paying for the oxyfuel/CCS energy costs with the increased efficiency, I think, is the way to get essentially free CCS.

  27. Steve says:

    If there were a moratorium on all coal without sequestration or an offsetting reduction in emissions, then CCS becomes the “price to beat” and puts a de facto price on carbon.

    Then any utility facing growing demand will likely pick a competing power source (renewables, efficiency, natural gas, nuke) if the price of a new coal plant with CCS is just too high.

    And if they want to continue to operate some existing coal plants, then they would need to retire other plants, to get down to an average zero net emission on the plants that remain in operation.

    That means at least a 50 percent reduction in emissions for the existing coal plants, or purchasing effective offsets for those existing emissions. For the latter case, you’d have to show, for instance, that your investments in efficiency reduced emissions equal to what you’re emitting by keeping the existing coal plants open.

    If it’s politically too difficult initially to focus on the existing coal plants — then focus first on proposed coal plants and implement this requirement at the margin with new generators only. Then, move against the ‘grandfathered’ plants and progressively increase the pressure to wind them down too.

    Seems simpler than a economywide cap and trade regime. However, I’m for that too if we can get it passed.

  28. David Lewis says:

    I don’t understand why you feel that this report confirms that CCS is a dead end, high cost, non-solution. In the abstract of the report, the authors state

    “the additional cost of electricity with capture is approximately 2-5¢/kWh, with costs of the range of $35-70/tCO2 avoided.”

    This is in the range of estimates for the mature technology I’ve been reading for years. There is the IPCC Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage, the McKinsey report, MIT etc. You’ve taken the statement of these Harvard authors that the very first plants are going to cost a lot and tried to make it sound like that confirms the technology is a dead end.

    [JR: “Confirms” is not the word I’d use, though it is OK. Is the 10th nail in the coffin, maybe. I guess you don’t read my links or even the one key link — CCS has a myriad problems of which cost is only one. If you swallow all the optimistic assumptions and it turns out to be five cents/kWh more expensive, that just about prices it out of range through 2030 I’d guess.]

    We aren’t going to see CCS except if government throws billions at each plant. The IPCC is wrong, McKinsey lost their marbles a long time ago, the people at MIT wouldn’t know what carbon is, and as for Harvard, well, as you say, we should only pay attention to what you say is correct in what they’ve come up with, and ignore the rest of what they are saying.

    Chu may say he supports CCS, but you know for certain he believes, what, the billions he’s allocated for it at the DOE are just so much more confetti thrown into the air?

    [JR: Uhh, Congress allocates money, not Chu — that’s how the US funding government works.]

    If Chu is as certain as you say that CCS is a gold plated non solution, why, in the IAC “Lighting the Way” report, did he as chair endorse its development? “Technologies should be developed and deployed for capturing and sequestering carbon from fossil fuels, particularly coal” – page vi

    [JR: I agree they “should be developed.” I agree we should spend money seeing if they could be a plausible post-2030 solution. I just seriously doubt they will be a low-cost or practical solution for at least the next two decades — and I have little doubt Chu believes the same.]

    Is Chu that cynical, that he would blithely ignore the mission statement of the IAC, which was created by “all of the world’s science academies… to mobilize the best scientists and engineers worldwide to provide high quality advice to international bodies”? Did he mobilize to spread BS around instead?

    [JR: What precisely is cynical about aggressively pursuing all options including the ones you are skeptical of, particularly in the near term?]

    According to you, we should disregard the conclusion of this recent paper which is: “The range of estimated costs for NOAK plants is within the range of plausible future carbon prices, implying that mature technology would be competitive with conventional fossil fuel plants at prevailing carbon prices.”

    [JR: Wow. I count only 6 hedge words in one sentence — that could be a record. And again, you misstate my position.]

    In other words, it seems to me, the authors of this “Harvard stunner” that you take as confirming your conviction that CCS is an expensive sham are saying that at the price a reasonable person can expect carbon emissions to be priced at in the future given that even the US is moving now on CO2 emission control, if anyone was going to build a fossil fuel plant, they’d design it to capture its carbon emissions. Isn’t that the point of putting a price on carbon in the first place, i.e. to make it economical to build generating facilities that don’t emit carbon?

    [JR: Tell me, what percentage of CO2 will be captured by this hypothetical FOAK or NOAK of yours? How long will coal supplies last? The point of putting a price on carbon is both to get off of carbon as quickly as possible and to get on to sustainable sources of clean energy as quickly as possible. Coal with CCS ain’t sustainable. But CCS is definitely worth pursuing, in part because it can be used in conjunction with biomassas I have said many times.]

    Other technologies can move in to a greater or lesser extent, if they can produce electricity for less than a fossil fuel plant that has a carbon tax imposed on it, or that has CCS fitted to it.

    Personally, I don’t care what technology prevails, as long as CO2 is not emitted from it.



  29. David Lewis says:

    Chu on CCS, published by the Washington Post, April 16, 2009, Lois Romano interview

    SECRETARY CHU: Well, so the issue here is that if you consider, for example, the countries that have coal, two-thirds of the known coal reserves lie primarily in the United States, China, India, and Russia. The United States actually has the most known coal reserves in the world, and over 50 percent of our electricity is generated by coal. Even if the United States turns its back on coal, China and India will not, and so, given the state of affairs, I would prefer to say let’s try to develop technologies that can get a large fraction of the carbon dioxide out of coal. Start with 70, 80 percent, and build up to over 90 percent, but start now, and try to get it out.

    If we didn’t do that and if Europe didn’t try to develop those technologies, China and India will continue to build coal plants and continue not to sequester it. So I think it’s–it’s up to the developed countries, especially, to take a lead in developing the technologies that can capture the carbon.

    MS. ROMANO: So is it a little unrealistic for Vice President Gore to think that he can end coal production by protesting these plants?

    SECRETARY CHU: Well, Al Gore is a friend of mine, and let’s just say that–I’ll go back to my original statement that we really have to take the lead, the technological lead, and see if this can get done. personally think that there’s a reasonably good probability we can figure this one out.

    The UNDP 2007/2008 Human Development Report also emphasized this international view of CCS.

    In their chapter 3 “Avoiding dangerous climate change: strategies for mitigation”, they noted that coal was “40% of the world’s electricity generation and CO2 emissions”, and they predicted that “the share of coal in world energy generation is likely to rise over time”, even in the face of what was then known about climate change. They then said “CCS is widely acknowledged to be the best bet for stringent mitigation in coal fired power generation”, and warned that rapid development of CCS by developed countries such as the US is going to prove to be necessary in order for international agreement to limit CO2 emission to succeed:

    “In the absence of a coherent international strategy for finance and technology transfer to facilitate the spread of low-carbon energy, developing countries will have little incentive to join a multilateral agreement that sets emission ceilings.”

  30. Skip says:

    It’s interesting how the immaturity and high initial cost of CCS make it a bad idea while pointing to the same characteristics of PV or other renewable technologies over the years has been considered counterproductive pessimism: apparently when you’re against a technology, you go through the looking glass and left is right, up is down!

  31. Leland Palmer says:

    Oh, by the way, regarding oxyfuel, the Vattenfall guys say that their oxyfuel pilot plant is working better than expected, and they plan to install 230 MW of oxyfuel/CCS by 2015:

    Sweden’s state-owned Vattenfall is almost as eager as Norway’s state-owned energy monopolies to see CCS accepted as a bona fide fix for CO2 belching on the part of both coal-fired and gas-fired plants. Vattenfall said it would build a demonstration 250 MW CCS at one block of the 3,000 MW brown-coal Jänschwalde plant, to be ready by 2015. The cleaned-up CO2 would be piped to a nearby empty natural gas field. The CCS will be built on the so-called oxyfuel technique, which Vattenfall is also using at its CCS demonstration pilot at the Scwarze Pumpe plant. Schwarze Pumpe’s 30 MW installation is estimated to cost 70 million Euros, and is set to open this summer. Jänschwalde’s price tag: 1 billion Euros ($1.57 billion). Internally, Vattenfall hopes to halve its CO2 emissions by half by 2030. Via

    Run such a plant on biochar or biomass co-firing, and it would be a carbon negative power plant.

  32. Leland Palmer says:

    Whoops, on edit, 250 MW, not 230 MW.

  33. Leland Palmer says:

    Regarding economic analysis of the Vattenfall project, the quoted costs of 1.57 billion USD is not the major cost of the project. These are renovation costs, and as such are one-time costs that don’t amount to much.

    The main question is how the thermal efficiency of the Vattenfall conversion to oxyfuel compares to the thermal efficiency of the coal plant it is replacing.

    I believe that technology exists, such as NETL’s HIPPS technology, to increase the thermal efficiency of the conversion sufficient to pay for the conversion costs in increased fuel efficiency, and pay for the parasitic losses due to the CCS.

    Commercial industry has been very, very slow in technological innovation to increase the efficiency of coal plants. This is because they have been profitable as they are, IMO, and as a strategy to limit government regulation.

    HIPPS does have one crucial technological challenge, though. That challenge is to create a high temperature heat exchanger that can operate in the very corrosive coal flame environment at temperatures of 1200 degrees C or so.

    United Technologies has, however, apparently solved that problem, with development of a hybrid ceramic lined alloy heat exchanger.

    For more on the HIPPS (aka Indirectly Fired Combined Cycle) idea, see the following link, or visit the NETL (National Energy Technologies Laboratory) website.

    Laboratory and pilot-scale tests of a very high-temperature heat exchanger (HTHX) that could be used to produce pressurized air at up to 2000°F for an indirectly fired combined-cycle (IFCC)power plant were performed while three coal–biomass blends were fired. An IFCC using this type of heat exchanger has the potential to reach efficiencies of 45% when firing coal and over 50% when a duct burner is used to additionally heat the gas entering the turbine.

    Because of its high efficiency, an IFCC system is the most appropriate power concept for employing oxygen enriched combustion in order to make carbon dioxide removal more economical