The company has just released details of successful pilot tests at the Longannet coal-fired power plant in Fife, in eastern Scotland, which show a one-third drop in the energy required to separate carbon emissions at the plant. As reported by Industrial Info in October, ScottishPower had completed the pilot and was predicted to announce a reduction in the cost of implementing CCS.
Working with Norwegian company Aker Clean Carbon, the company said that the drop has been achieved by monitoring the effectiveness of the amine plant that captures the CO2 and changing the combination of process improvements and low-energy solvents.
"The testing at Longannet has resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of energy required to capture CO2, a reduction of about a third on what was previously thought to be achievable," said ScottishPower Chief Executive Nick Horler, presenting the findings at the recent Carbon Capture and Storage Forum in London. "What this means in real terms is that we're not just reducing energy, but also reducing the cost. And that is key to the future of CCS, being able to capture CO2 effectively and efficiently without it being cost-prohibitive to ourselves or consumers.
I'm not claiming we're there yet but the journey is well under way. In the next few months, as our scientists and engineers work with new amine solutions, we are confident that we will cross more barriers, achieve more breakthroughs and deliver even better results."
The prototype carbon capture unit at Longannet is the first to be demonstrated on a working coal-fired power station in the UK and has been successfully operating for more than 2,000 hours. Longannet is the UK's second-largest coal-fired plant and the third-largest in Europe, with an output of 2,304-megawatts (MW) from four 600-MW turbines. The 1-MW CCS pilot is an exact replica of a large CCS plant. Weighing in at 30 tonnes, the CCS pilot covers an area of 85 square metres and is capable of processing 1,000 cubic metres of exhaust gas per hour. According to ScottishPower, the unit has been capturing about 90% of the carbon content.
ScottishPower is one of two front-runners competing for vital government funding that will allow the company to upscale the pilot into a 330-MW commercial-scale demonstration plant by 2014. E.ON AG is also in the running, but its own pilot at Kingsnorth has been overshadowed by the decision to shelve plans for a new coal-fired plant at the Kingsnorth site.
A consortium led by Dong Energy recently withdrew from the race, but one of the consortium members, Germany's RWE AG, has decided to strike out on its own and will submit a planning application for a 3-MW carbon-capture pilot project at the company's 1,500-MW coal-fired power plant in Aberthaw, Wales.
Meanwhile, Scottish and Southern Energy plc has just announced its entry to the competition by claiming it will build the country's largest CCS demonstration plant at the Ferrybridge coal-fired power station near Castleford in Yorkshire.