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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 16, 2009
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Clean Coal-An Opportunity for Poland
September 16, 2009 By A.R.    
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Clean coal technology is the new challenge for Poland's energy sector as the country strives to meet international environmental standards while continuing to use coal, its main source of energy.

Electricity consumption forecasts for Poland show there is a need to expand the country's power generation capacity. On the one hand, Poland's obligation to cut greenhouse gas emissions forces it to use low-emission electricity generation technology. That is why the country plans to make use of all available coal-based energy generation technology that helps reduce air pollution and significantly cut carbon dioxide emissions.

An Economy Ministry draft energy policy until 2030 calls for supporting the development of energy generation technology with a reduced environmental impact, including coal gasification and carbon capture and storage technologies.

Nearly 95 percent of electricity in Poland is generated by coal-based power plants. This ensures a high level of energy security, but requires increasingly expensive pollution reduction methods due to systematically decreasing emission limits. That is why, experts believe, clean coal technology should be a natural step in the development of the Polish fuel and energy system.

CCS is key: Buzek
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a major opportunity for Poland, says Jerzy Buzek, former Polish prime minister, now president of the European Parliament, who specializes in environmental protection and the energy industry. He believes that increasing the role of renewable energy and investment in nuclear energy will not eliminate the Polish energy system's dependence on coal.

"We will not produce electricity from oil and natural gas because we do not have sufficient deposits," Buzek said in an interview for the Polish Press Agency. "We are left with renewable energy, nuclear power and coal. Nuclear energy will be here in 15 years at the earliest, while renewable energy is expensive. We should develop both, but these sources will generate a total of only 30-40 percent of our energy; the remaining 60-70 percent must come from coal."

Clean coal research in Poland focuses on technology and development forecasts. Technology is developed at the Central Mining Institute, the Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal and the Institute of Power Engineering. Forecasts are provided by the Energy Market Agency, which develops the guidelines for the country's energy policy, and by the Polish Academy of Sciences' Mineral and Energy Economy Research Institute, which works on development forecasts for power and heat generation technology.

Of particular importance is research on underground coal gasification technology, and carbon dioxide capture and underground storage, experts say.

From words to action
According to Waldemar Pawlak, the deputy prime minister and economy minister, Poland is the best country to implement clean coal technology because it is dependent on coal as a source of energy. "That is why we want to launch at least two carbon capture and storage installations in the near future," he said.

Speaking at a recent conference on CCS and other clean coal technology, held by demosEurope earlier this year in Warsaw, Pawlak said, "Along with growing energy generation costs, including carbon dioxide emission fees, we are approaching a point where new technology is becoming economically viable on a large scale. That is why we also need CCS test installations, in order to examine their efficiency and economic value."

The development of clean coal technology is supported not only by Poland, but also by European Union officials in Brussels. The EU plans to spend significant money on the construction of 12 test CCS installations throughout Europe by 2015.

Not as black as painted
Buzek says the EU has changed its attitude to coal. Until recently coal was seen as undesirable and environmentally unfriendly. Now Brussels sees it as a priority. "The EU believes that coal may be a source of energy for many decades," says Buzek. "It's available in nearly all EU countries and there is no need to import it. The plan to make billions of euros available for the development of clean coal technology underlines the importance the European Commission attaches to this raw material."

More than 50 companies, including Polish firms, have shown interest in building CCS installations. The Elektrownia Bełchatów power plant, part of the Polish Energy Group, is hoping for a subsidy from EU funds to build a CCS system. The company is building an installation along with an 858 MW lignite-fueled energy generation unit. The plant has signed a letter of intent with French company Alstom on the development and launch of a CCS installation. In phase one, Alstom will design and build a test installation for an existing power unit. It should be launched in mid-2011. Next, experience gained from operating it will be used in the construction and operation of a CCS installation at the new unit.

Zakłady Azotowe Kędzierzyn is also counting on EU support. The company intends to build, jointly with Południowy Koncern Energetyczny energy group, an installation that will not only capture carbon dioxide but also allow it to be used for methanol production.

In its demonstration phase, the project will generate enough synthesis gas to produce 500,000 metric tons of methanol a year. This will meet the entire domestic demand for methanol, eliminating the need for imports, officials say.

Most experts agree that clean coal technology offers good prospects. However, industrial-scale application of the CCS technology in Poland may be hampered by the fact that, for the time being, the country has no laws regulating carbon dioxide storage underground.
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