England, the Birthplace of Coal Power, Will Build Europe's First Gasification Plant

February 21 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2013   Rating: 3 Hot

Hatfield Mine

England, the Birthplace of Coal Power and the Industrial Revolution, will now build Europe's first advanced coal power generation plant based on a gasification process that should provide 90 percent overall carbon capture.

Honeywell's UOP has been awarded a contract by UK-based Powerfuel Power Ltd. to construct a 900 MW plant that transforms coal into a much cleaner syngas which is used to generate electricity.

The UOP Selexol(TM) process technology allows the operator to capture carbon (sulfur, et al) during the process of creating the hydrogen-rich syngas.

The Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant will be built adjacent to the Hatfield coal mining operation (picture) and should start operation in 2013.

Finding a way to talk about Coal
Coal is not the future of energy, but it has a future.  In recent years it has been the world's fastest growing source of energy, and is likely to gain market share in the years ahead even as renewables grow faster.  We cannot just wish it away and there are no easy, short term solutions that satisfy either side of the coal conversation.

If 'Clean Coal' is not possible, then 'Cleaner' coal might be the middle ground.  Some engineers are betting on shoving carbon into the ground, and construction of future gasification plants.  Other biologists are betting that we can retrofit existing plants with bioreactors of algae/bacteria that 'eat' carbon and produce a usuable hydrocarbon fuel that can be used onsite to generate electricity, or sold as a liquid fuel of biomaterial feedstock.

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[Video] 60 Minutes Clean Coal Program Misses Chance to Introduce Bio-based Carbon Solutions

April 29 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 3 Hot

60 Minutes recently aired a program on the future of coal power featuring Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers (an advocate of longer term 'Cathedral Thinking' carbon reduction) and leading climate scientist James Hansen (an advocate of a moratorium on building coal plants). 

The CBS report was solidly mainstream in framing coal as central to the conversation on energy, environment and global economic development- but it failed to move the conversation beyond ideas that have existed for several decades.

Time for Big Ideas, not Big Battles
Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy due largely to growth outside the United States.  And despite all the rapid growth rates expected with wind and solar, coal is likely to gain global market share in the years ahead.

So this is not just a conversation about US policy and US-based utilities! And there is no way to just 'wish' coal away.  We must develop low cost carbon solutions that can be applied around the world within existing power plants.  And everyone agrees - these low cost solutions do not exist today!

CBS Producers missed an opportunity to introduce more advanced non-geoengineering strategies to carbon neutralization and left viewers stuck at ringside watching the same old 'pro' vs 'anti' battle.

Carbon's Molecular Dance between Oxygen and Hydrogen
Carbon is a 'sticky' molecule that interchangeably binds with oxygen and hydrogen based on its journey through biochemical pathways or via human induced energy conversion (e.g. power plants and combustion engine).   

Human beings have a choice to approach carbon solutions through geo-engineering (shoving it underground), or as bio-engineers who can bind carbon with hydrogen for use as a hydrocarbon fuel (for transportation or onsite electricity generation) or a bio-feestock for industrial applications.   CBS viewers would have been better off understanding the long-term view of carbon rather than watch a debate without a viable solution.  (Continue Reading Below).

Seeing Carbon through a Lens of Biology

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Fuel Cells for Cleaner Coal? Key Milestone Achieved in Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Energy Systems

March 30 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 2

future of energy fuel cell

Coal is the world's fastest growing source of energy, and at the center of the debate over advancing our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions even as we attempt to meet the demands of a global doubling of energy consumption in the decades ahead.  

'Clean' vs 'Cleaner'
While one side of the debate spectrum ridicules the concept of 'Clean Coal', the other side is pushing forward down the road to 'Cleaner' ways to convert coal energy into electricity that goes far beyond today's 'coal fire' combustion power plants.

Via a process known as 'gasification' we can remove much of the carbon from coal to create a cleaner hydrogen-rich synthetic gas (syngas). Industrial scale fuel cells can then convert this syngas chemical energy into electricity. The challenge is scaling up fuel cells to meet the challenge!

Key Milestone for SOFCs
The U.S. Department of Energy's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) has high hopes for fuel cell based energy conversion and has just announced a key 5,000 hour operation and performance milestone based on two stacks developed by FuelCell Energy (FCE) in partnership with Versa Power Systems.

The milestone marks a key step towards non-combustion based conversion using 'low-cost Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) technology for coal-based power plants and other power generation applications' using carbon heavy feedstocks such as syngas, natural gas and biofuels.

Integrated gasification fuel cell plants are expected 'to achieve an overall operating efficiency of greater than 50 percent—15 percentage points higher than today’s average U.S.-based coal-fired power plant—while separating at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions for capture and environmentally secure storage.'

The US Department of Energy hoopes to have a a 250-kilowatt to 1-megawatt fuel cell module demonstration by 2012; a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept fuel cell system to demonstrate system integration, heat recovery turbines, and power electronics by 2015; and then a full-scale demonstration of a 250- to 500-megawatt integrated gasification fuel cell power plant by 2020.

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