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Moving Forward on CCS

March 14, 2014 - 8:36am


How important is carbon capture and storage (CCS) to U.S. and global greenhouse gas mitigation efforts?  What’s the status of FE’s CCS research and development (R&D)?  And how do we move these important technologies forward? 

These are some of the questions that Dr. Julio Friedmann, FE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal, tackled during his keynote address at the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute's Third Annual Americas Forum, hosted by the Canadian Embassy on February 28.

CCS is the process of capturing and storing or re-using carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-fired power plants and industrial sources, and is an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above plan to secure America’s energy future.  Applied to coal-fired electricity generation, CCS is expected to play an important role in achieving national and global CO2 reduction goals.

The technical community broadly supports CCS as a critical tool for reducing carbon emissions, and a number of studies have underscored the importance of CCS to any CO2 mitigation strategy.  For instance, a 2012 study by the International Energy Administration showed that CCS would account for roughly one-sixth of the CO2 reduction required in 2050 to meet global carbon emission targets.

"Take any option off the table today,” Dr. Friedmann said, and “the cost of greenhouse gas abatement goes up. It doesn't matter what that option is, whether you take off efficiency or renewables or nuclear or CCS or fuel switching. In the context of CCS, if you take CCS off the table, the cost of abatement goes up 50 to 80 percent.”

DOE’s research and development initiatives have helped the U.S. become a leader in CCS development.  The Department is currently supporting eight 1st Generation commercial-scale CCS demonstration projects underway across the country, including the commercial-scale Kemper Project in Mississippi – which will begin operation later this year.  At the same time, the  Office of Fossil Energy is pursuing R&D on lower cost 2nd Generation technologies.

Developing those more cost effective technologies will be critical to widespread commercialization of CCS.

“We need more 2nd Generation pilots,” Dr. Friedmann told the audience of 120 people.  “And that means we will be trying to figure out how to create budgets, create solicitations, create opportunities, so that people inside this room and outside this room can take those kinds of investments and develop these commercial technologies.”

Reflecting his commitment to CCS, President Obama’s Energy Department budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 includes more than $277 million for the FE’s CCS and Power Systems R&D program.  This is on top of the $6 billion that the 2009 Recovery Act targeted for CCS – as well as the Department’s new $8 billion loan guarantee program to support advanced fossil energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon capture technologies.

Going forward, many experts believe that CCS will not only be required for coal plants and industrial facilities, but for natural gas plants, as well.  That’s why the President’s FY 2015 budget request includes $25 million for a new Natural Gas CCS demonstration program to support projects to capture and store carbon emissions from natural gas power systems.

"It is an all of the above world," Dr. Friedmann noted.  “We also have to envision a world in which we're not just doing CCS …for stationary power plants fired by coal. We will be doing this for natural gas plants. We will be doing this at cement plants and steel mills and refineries. We're going to be doing this in a lot of different contexts and a lot of places. It's simply required to get to where we need to get."