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Clean coal technologies endorsed by US Government

World Coal,

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and other clean coal technologies are key to future energy models and integral to the fight against climate change, industry bodies say.

The US Energy Department has announced the selection of 18 projects to research innovative, second-generation technologies that will help improve efficiency and reduce costs of carbon capture processes for both new and existing coal-fired power plants.

Meanwhile, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) announced its members have endorsed CCS as a key component of international plans to combat climate change. In a communiqué released by the CSLF, member country ministers stressed: “We are convinced that the demonstration and global deployment of carbon capture and storage must be accelerated and we are committed to taking necessary actions individually and collaboratively to make this happen.”

Using fossil fuels as cleanly as possible is essential to reducing climate change

US Department of Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, echoed a similar sentiment to that espoused by the CSLF. Moniz said: “In the past four years we’ve more than doubled renewable energy generation from wind and solar power. However, coal and other fossil fuels still provide 80% of our energy, 70% of our electricity, and will be a major part of our energy future for decades. That’s why any serious effort to protect future generations from the worst effects of climate change must also include developing, demonstrating and deploying the technologies to use our abundant fossil fuel resources as cleanly as possible. As part of the President’s all-of-the-above approach to develop clean and affordable sources of American energy, the projects announced today will focus on the next generation of carbon capture technologies - helping to drive down the cost, increase efficiency and ensure America’s continued international leadership in combating climate change.”

To date, the Obama Administration has invested US$ 6 billion in clean coal technologies to ensure the US continues to have access to safe, sustainable and affordable energy from our abundant domestic fossil resources. Developing, demonstrating and deploying these technologies is a critical part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to American energy.

With nearly US$ 84 million in investments from the Energy Department – and additional cost-share from industry, universities, and other research institutions – the projects will support the development of advanced technologies that will help enable efficient, cost-effective application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) processes for new and existing coal-fired power plants.

Projects will conduct carbon capture research for two different fossil power generation processes. For traditional, combustion-based power plants – like most coal-fired plants today – research will focus on more efficiently capturing carbon emissions post combustion. More advanced, gasification-based electric power plants break down coal – or almost any carbon-based feedstock – into its chemical constituents before any combustion takes place. Research into this technology will improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of pre-combustion carbon capture.

CCS is increasingly being viewed by industry and environmental experts as being key to efforts to combat climate change, and must be used in conjunction with existing fossil fuels as country’s move towards a balanced energy future with reduced carbon emissions. The communiqué from the CSLF pointed out that “CCS is a low-carbon technology option critical to the global quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, and CCS is the only climate change mitigation technology option available to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from both coal and gas-fired power plants and a range of industrial processes including cement and steel manufacturing.”

Investment vital for CCS

The CSLF also said that CCS would rely on further investment and financial support as the technology is made commercially viable. “It is clear that significant progress has been made on CCS, challenges remain, but these are challenges that we can – and will – overcome.”

The Ministers stressed that their common goal is to ensure that the conditions are right for completing CCS projects currently under construction or in advanced stages of planning, and that the number of new large CCS demonstrations is increased by 2020 to enable future commercial deployment in the early 2020’s.

The CSLF Ministers outlined key actions needed for CCS deployment:

  • Develop predictable financial frameworks and incentive mechanisms to drive near-term deployment of CCS by enabling CCS technologies to compete with other low carbon technologies.
  • Develop workable CCS demonstration and deployment strategies in both the power and industrial sectors, recognizing that without CCS, the cost to meet aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals will be significantly higher.
  • Stress the vital importance of global coordinated efforts on coherent and optimal CCS research, development, and demonstrations, and actively seek and support such opportunities through bilateral and multilateral collaboration with other key bodies including the International Energy Agency and the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.
  • Continue establishing permitting frameworks that will ensure the safety and integrity of integrated CCS systems, and eliminate unnecessary obstacles for their deployment.
  • Recognize the need for pre-commercial storage validation and encourage cooperation between countries to identify and assess shared geological storage resources and develop plans for their orderly development, including development of associated transport system.
  • Strengthen our national, regional and international efforts to improve understanding among the public and stakeholders of CCS technology and the importance of its deployment.
  • Support efforts to grow capacity in CCS and foster appropriate steps in knowledge sharing and technology transfer.

CSLF membership includes 22 developed and developing nations, including China and India, and the European Commission, united in seeking practical and constructive ways of dealing with concerns about CO2 and climate change.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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