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The Warsaw Voice » Business » April 8, 2009
Business coping with the crisis
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The World's First Energy-Chemical Complex in Kędzierzyn
April 8, 2009   
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Poland has one of the world's largest deposits of coal. Coal has been the basic raw material for the Polish economy for decades, and will continue to play this role in the coming years.

Ninety-five percent of Poland's energy is produced from coal. Carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest problem in effective use of this fuel. In the near future, Poland's energy and chemical industries will have to invest huge funds to modernize their installations in order to meet increasingly stringent European Union requirements.

Late last year EU countries agreed on a climate package that obligates Poland to capture proportionally the biggest part of CO2 emissions in the EU. This explains why Poland needs demonstration facilities that will help develop and test clean coal technology.

To meet the new requirements, Zakłady Azotowe Kędzierzyn (ZAK) and Południowy Koncern Energetyczny (PKE) have started work to build an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) installation, complete with a carbon capture and storage system (CCS). This innovative project combines energy generation with chemical production in order to optimize the costs and increase the efficiency of production processes in both plants. The Zero-Emission Energy-Chemical Complex will produce clean electricity, heat and synthesis gas, and it will also make it possible to store carbon dioxide generated during the production process.

IGCC technology makes it possible to obtain synthesis gas, a substitute of natural gas, from coal. Synthesis gas will be used as a component in the production of chemicals such as methanol. ZAK will be the first Polish company to produce methanol on an industrial scale. The installation will generate 500,000 metric tons of methanol a year, meeting Poland's total annual demand for the product.

The complex will be 100 percent safe and environmentally friendly. Owing to the combination of IGCC and CCS technology, coupled with the use of up to 10 percent of biomass in the gasification process, it will be possible to achieve a net negative carbon effect and reduce CO2 emissions by a total of 3.3 million metric tons a year.

The ZAK-PKE project is located in Upper Silesia, a region with the highest CO2 emissions in the EU. This means that environmental pollution will be limited exactly where that is most needed. In addition, it will be possible to stimulate know-how and innovation needed to develop clean coal technology in the area. The Kędzierzyn project opens the way to modernizing other power plants owned by PKE in Poland.

The ZAK-PKE project is special because it is based on a viable business vision, said Paal Frisvold, president of the Bellona Europa foundation and vice-chairman of the Zero Emission Platform (ZEP). "The project is not only about capturing carbon dioxide, but also about using it for chemical production," Frisvold said. "It combines all the useful and important solutions that we are interested in. I have to admit that this project is the Rolls-Royce of projects applying for co-financing from the European Commission. We are concerned about testing technology for capturing CO2, transporting carbon dioxide via pipelines or in tanks, and storing it in underground tanks in former mines or caves. The ZAK-PKE project meets these criteria, and so it's very exciting.

"What's more, this project is of key importance to Poland because it transforms the country's problems with generating energy from coal and using coal simply as fuel, into an opportunity for the economy. Of course, that costs money, but the EU can understand that and has the funds needed to achieve this goal."
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