Tag Archives: CCS

The Week in Green Energy: Mixed Signals from Washington Doom Clean Coal Project

Last year President Barack Obama’s attempt at sweeping climate change legislation died a slow death in a congress exhausted by the fight over healthcare. While advocates of a wide-ranging federal climate change policy bemoaned congress’ lack of action at the time, few openly worried about the fate of “clean coal.” This is largely because clean coal is treated as the red-headed stepchild of the clean energy community, shunned as the least “clean” of emerging green technologies. However, with clean coal shaping up to be one of the first victims of Washington’s inability to agree on a comprehensive approach to greenhouse gas emissions, it could also be the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

This week major clean coal player American Electric Power (AEP) announced that it is abandoning its initiative to install a commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system at the company’s Mountaineer coal-fueled power plant in New Haven, West Virginia. In 2009, AEP was selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) to receive up to $334 million through the Clean Coal Power Initiative to pay part of the costs for installation of a commercial-scale CCS system at the plant. Initially the company claimed the CCS system would capture 90% of the plants carbon output. Now AEP is essentially abandoning any attempt to advance CCS technology to a commercial scale.

“The AEP decision shows how Washington’s piecemeal approach to green energy can cause unease.”

While the economy certainly played a role in AEP’s decision, without a long-term climate policy the company is also unsure about the strength of the federal government’s commitment to clean coal.

“We are placing the project on hold until economic and policy conditions create a viable path forward,” Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman and chief executive officer said in a statement. Clean coal advocates have reason to worry about the government’s loyalty to CCS technology. While the coal lobby has undeniable political clout and President Obama himself touted clean coal in this year’s state of the union address, many environmentalists claim CCS technology remains unproven. On the other side of the political spectrum fiscal conservatives are loath to advance the technology using taxpayers’ money.

CCS is certainly no closer to commercialization given AEP’s recent move, though FutureGen Alliance, the other major CCS developer, assures G.E.R that its $1.3 billion project (about $1 billion of which comes from the federal government) in southern Illinois is on track. “(FutureGen) is a different project (than Mountaineer). If anything (the AEP move) probably makes FutureGen more critical,” a spokesman for the alliance said this week.

Obviously AEP’s decision is not the end of clean coal, but it does underscore how a questionable government commitment to new energy technologies can sink a project. In an environment where fiscal conservatives seem intent on slashing funding for even the most politically connected forms of cleantech, the AEP decision shows how Washington’s piecemeal approach to green energy can cause unease. Clean coal may be much maligned in some green energy circles, but it has some of the same problems as the rest of the sector. Without a more comprehensive, long-term approach from federal authorities, other cleantech initiatives will go the way of Mountaineer.

Mark Pabst, San Francisco 

September Top 10 Players in Green Energy

Editor’s note: We’re back — and a little late — with our monthly top ten ranking! Tune back November 8th for our October ranking.

1: California Energy Commission


September was a busy month at the California Energy Commission (CEC), which approved, according to G.E.R.’s own count, a record 2,351 megawatts of solar projects. With key stimulus programs folding in a few months, developers have been working overtime, pressing regulators to greenlight their projects. Aware of this looming deadline, the CEC (and shortly after that, federal regulators) approved a series of flagship projects including BrightSource Energy’s 392 megawatt Ivanpah solar thermal power plant and Tessera Solar?s 709 megawatt Imperial Valley solar facility. These solar power plants still have to get funded but the rapid regulatory turnaround boosts the probability that they actually get built. Continue reading September Top 10 Players in Green Energy

AEP Announces CCS Project…. Really?

This press release, announcing a “first of its kind carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project,” released today by American Electric Power (AEP), one of the country’s largest CO2 emitter, caught our attention. This is interesting because there’s growing consencus that, while an attractive idea,  it would take time and a mountain of  money for CCS technology to even become commercially viable. There are also a number of unknowns including, what happen over the long-term to all that CO2 stored underground, so far no one knows.

The CCS test project,deployed at AEP’s 1,300 megawatts, Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in West Virginia, uses technology developed by French turbine maker Alstom Power. It’s been live since in September and started storing CO2 this month.  AEP, says this is the world’s first CCS project.

The test project is set to capture at least 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2 annually. The CO2 is compressed and piped roughly 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) beneath the earth’s surface for storage.

The $787 billion federal stimulus includes $3.5 billion to finance CCS research. AEP says it plans to tap some of that money to scale up the Mountaineer project so it captures 1.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year.

What To Expect This Week: BP, The Kerry Climate Bill

Tomorrow British oil and gas company BP is releasing its 2010 capital expenditure program. Expect company Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward to reaffirm his company’s focus on its oil and gas business.

Last quarter BP posted a fourth-quarter profit of $4.3 billion after losing $3.34 billion in the prior-year period. For the year, BP earned $16.58 billion. Most of that revenue was generated by the company’s upstream and downstream oil and gas business. Continue reading What To Expect This Week: BP, The Kerry Climate Bill

What to Expect from Austin and Beyond… Bloom Box, John Kerry and Ed Miliband

Today, we are in Austin, Texas (and no, we’re not attending South by Southwest, that’s next month) for Renewable Energy World’s North America Conference. The agenda includes a mix of technical discussions (one panel is entitled “Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges to Wind Power in the U.S.”) and panels looking at U.S. renewable energy policy and access to development capital. Continue reading What to Expect from Austin and Beyond… Bloom Box, John Kerry and Ed Miliband

AEP Announces CCS Project…. Really?

This press release, announcing a “first of its kind carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project,” released today by American Electric Power (AEP), one of the country’s largest CO2 emitter, caught our attention. This is interesting because there’s growing consencus that, while an attractive idea,  it would take time and a mountain of  money for CCS technology to even become commercially viable. There are also a number of unknowns including, what happen over the long-term to all that CO2 stored underground, so far no one knows.

The CCS test project,deployed at AEP’s 1,300 megawatts, Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in West Virginia, uses technology developed by French turbine maker Alstom Power. It’s been live since in September and started storing CO2 this month.  AEP, says this is the world’s first CCS project.

The test project is set to capture at least 100,000 metric tonnes of CO2 annually. The CO2 is compressed and piped roughly 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) beneath the earth’s surface for storage.

The $787 billion federal stimulus includes $3.5 billion to finance CCS research. AEP says it plans to tap some of that money to scale up the Mountaineer project so it captures 1.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year.