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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 3, 2008
Technology
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Toward Emission-Free Power Plants
December 3, 2008   
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At the beginning of this year, the European Commission unveiled its Flagship Program to build 12 trial power plants by 2015 using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. Poland has applied for permission to host at least one such facility.

According to Prof. Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister and now a member of the European Parliament, it is possible to build even two such facilities in Poland. "However, we have to hurry because other countries want to build them as well," says Buzek, who has been involved in the development of clean coal technology for years. "And then it could happen that the European Union (EU) will help finance the facilities that appear first. These facilities need to be built by 2015 since the trial phase is set for between 2015 and 2020. At the end of the trial phase, dependent on the results, CCS technology is to be widely implemented."

So far the Flagship Program has attracted 43 projects from 12 EU member countries. The majority of projects, nine in all, have come from Britain. The Netherlands has put forward seven projects, Norway six, and Germany five. Poland has three projects. There are several potential locations in Poland for such a facility, but the most probable seem to be in Blachownia near Kędzierzyn and on the site of the BOT Bełchatów power plant. The first would use hard coal for fuel, the second brown coal. A joint project between Zakłady Azotowe Puławy nitrogen plant and the Bogdanka mine offers huge potential. To date, implementation procedures for pilot power plants in Bełchatów and Kędzierzyn are the most advanced.

For the pilot program BOT Bełchatów power plant has two projects in place: a 858 MW power generation unit that uses CCS technology to separate carbon dioxide from emissions and a 950 MW unit that uses Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology to capture carbon dioxide.

According to Henryk Majchrzak, chairman of the BOT Górnictwo i Energetyka (BOT GiE) mining and energy group, a feasibility study for the 858 MW unit has been completed and it could go into operation in 2010. Low- and emission-free projects for energy production from mined fuels will be an important direction for the BOT group's future development since these are the standard fuels used in BOT GiE's power plants.

Meanwhile, the emission-free power plant in Kędzierzyn that the Katowice-based Południowy Koncern Energetyczny (PKE) energy corporation intends to build, is one of the most innovative Polish projects because it combines power and chemical modules. The planned power plant will generate more than one form of energy-polygeneration-producing electricity, heat and synthesis gas (syngas), and will capture and store resultant carbon dioxide in a process known as geosequestration. Combined electrical and thermal energy production and the production of syngas allows for efficient use of primary energy generated from fuel and low emission levels while keeping costs at a satisfactory level.

The facility will be sited in Kędzierzyn-KoĽle and will be a joint venture between PKE and Zakłady Azotowe Kędzierzyn nitrogen plant. The two partners Oct. 2 signed a letter of intent to build a modern power plant that will generate electricity, heat and syngas for the chemical sector. Its main aim will be to replace Zakłady Azotowe Kędzierzyn's existing power generation installations on all its sites with a common, modern, energy-generating facility. The project would lessen the risk of power failure at the Kędzierzyn-Blachownia industrial complex and would be a base on which to build an emission-free power plant.

Polygeneration

The term "polygeneration" means an energy supply system that delivers more than one form of energy to the final user. For example, electricity and heating can be delivered from one polygeneration plant.

The basic fuel is hard coal, which fires the gasification equipment and the IGCC technology. The use of this technology results in a significantly more efficient power plant, compared with a conventional coal-fired one, and makes it far more ecological. Water consumption is halved and emissions of nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide meet all European Union norms.

This method of generating electricity from fossil fuels-typically coal, pet coke or oil-produces fewer emissions than conventional coal generation alternatives, but at a considerably higher cost.

In a conventional coal power plant, coal is pulverized to a very fine powder and burned. The heat is used to produce steam, which in turn spins a turbine to generate electricity. This generation process is referred to as the "steam cycle."

In an IGCC facility, coal is fed into a vessel called a gasifier, where heat and pressure cause the coal to be converted to combustible gas compounds, or "syngas." This syngas is cleaned to remove sulfur and other contaminants before it is burned in a combustion turbine, which spins a generator.

Additionally, the exhaust heat from the combustion turbine is recovered and used to produce steam in a boiler that spins another generator. Thus, the "combined cycle" portion of IGCC-both a combustion turbine cycle and a steam cycle-are used to produce electricity.

Although gasification is commonly used in the chemical industry, only a few IGCC projects have been built worldwide for electric generation.

The projects thus far have provided valid demonstrations of performance characteristics for anticipated capacity, efficiency and environmental emissions. However, they have also shown that higher cost and lower reliability make this technology more expensive than conventional coal generation.

Polish attempts to store CO2

While the technology to capture carbon dioxide from flue gas is relatively well developed, the serious problem of how to store it is yet to be solved. Poland does not have as good underground storage facilities as do countries which have extracted crude oil or natural gas reserves, thus leaving behind natural storage chambers underground. Storing carbon dioxide under the sea bed is not an option since the Baltic Sea is too shallow.

Poland also lacks suitable legal regulations for the underground storage of carbon dioxide. "With regard to the storage of carbon dioxide, Poland trails far behind other European Union countries," says Marek ¦ci±żko, director of the Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal (ICHPW) in Zabrze. "To be able to even think about building an experimental emission-free power plant, we must quickly catch up to other countries."

Still, Poland has garnered some experience in amassing carbon dioxide underground. In 1995, Poland was the first country in Europe to use technology to amass carbon dioxide in gas reserves in Borzęcin. The then Institute of Mining of Oil and Gas (IGNiG), which today is the Oil and Gas Institute, and Polish oil and gas firm PGNiG built the first European industrial facility to store acidic gases that were a byproduct of natural gas extraction. Over a period of 12 years, almost 3 million cubic meters of gas containing carbon dioxide was pumped into this facility. This was a unique, experimental test site and as such was chosen for further and detailed research under the auspices of the European Union's Seventh Framework Program.

Ewa Dereń
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