Saturday, August 11, 2007

China's Coal Future, part II

...The Yantai power plant was based on integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology. IGCC plants resemble natural-gas-fired power plants--they use two turbines to capture mechanical and heat energy from expanding combustion gases--but are fueled with syngas from an integrated coal gasification plant.

They're not emissions free, but their gas streams are more concentrated, so the sulfurous soot, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants they generate are easier to separate and capture. Of course, once the carbon dioxide--the main greenhouse gas--is captured, engineers still need to find a place to stow it.

The most promising strategy is to sequester it deep within saline aquifers and oil reservoirs. In preliminary analyses, Chinese geologists have estimated that aging oil fields and aquifers could absorb more than a trillion tons of carbon dioxide--more than China's coal-fired plants would emit, at their current rate, for hundreds of years.

The Huaneng Group, a power producer based in Beijing, has pulled together a consortium of power and coal interests (Shenhua included) called GreenGen to build the first Chinese IGCC demo plant by 2010; like the related ­FutureGen project organized by the U.S. Department of Energy, GreenGen is to start with power production, then add carbon capture and storage. China's vice premier, Zeng Peiyan, made an appearance at GreenGen's ceremonial debut last summer, indicating Beijing's support for the project....

From MIT's Technology Review