From Dagenham, Essex, to Hempstead County, Arkansas, the issue of carbon capture and carbon capture readiness has gone from a peripheral to a key consideration in the permitting of new fossil fuelled plants. At the same time uncertainties surrounding carbon have been a major contributor to the unprecedented level of coal plant postponements and cancellations, both pulverised coal and IGCC (see pp 17-18), we are now seeing in the USA.

The approval given in November to AEP’s Southwestern Electric Power Co (SWEPCO) for its proposed 600 MWe Turk ultrasupercritical coal plant by the Arkansas Public Service Commission includes the condition that “although there are presently no regulatory requirements to sequestrate CO2 emissions, SWEPCO shall annually perform an updated analysis of the technical and economic feasibility of CO2 recapture [sic] and sequestration at the plant. If sequestration is determined to be technically and economically feasible by SWEPCO and this Commission, SWEPCO shall be prepared to install such technology.”

IGCC’s good potential for carbon capture and storage also figured prominently in the approval given (also in November) by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for Duke Power’s 630 MWe Edwardsport IGCC plant. This would be the USA’s first commercial scale IGCC for ten years “if the project proceeds,” says the utility.

In the current climate that “if” seems to be getting bigger by the day, not just for the Edwardsport project, but for just about every proposed coal plant in the USA that has not already been ditched or suspended.

Problems with cost inflation and the emergence of a seller’s market are creating challenges for some new build projects in Europe, eg Nuon’s Magnum plant (see p 21) – an issue we plan to explore at our forthcoming conference in Düsseldorf (see p 29). But in the USA cost escalation and lengthy and difficult permitting processes are combined with a greater degree of uncertainty about carbon regulation. Such regulation is inevitable (at both the state and federal levels) but is as yet largely uncharted territory (except to note that cap and trade systems seem likely). This has created what Keith White of GE recently characterised as a “perfect storm around new coal build.”

The problems are exemplified by Pacificorp’s decision, announced at the end of November, not to proceed with a supercritical unit at Bridger 5 “due to the current uncertainty in the ability to quantify in any meaningful way the cost of compliance with potential federal CO2 legislation…the projected cost impact upon new coal generation [being] currently within such a wide range as to make meaningful risk assessment futile.”

In the interests of encouraging a diversified fuel mix that includes clean coal these uncertainties surrounding carbon need to be resolved as soon as possible. In the mean time it looks like gas generation maybe in for something of a boom time, although we may now be entering an era when even CCGT plants will need to think about being capture ready.

The “Section 36 consent” given on 19 December to Barking Power for a new CCGT plant at its Dagenham site in the UK included a “condition to ensure that carbon capture plant can be retrofitted should that be necessary in the future.” This is perhaps an indicator of the way things are going.

Twenty years ago – MPS January 1988

“China’s first tidal power plant is operating in the Rushan area of Shandong province…”

“A pumped storage station at Zagorsk, north of Moscow, is being prepared for start-up…During daytime peak hours, water from the upper reservoir will drive the turbines of the six 200 MWe sets.”

“The UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) has given consent to load fuel into the second advanced gas-cooled reactor at Heysham 2…”

“Construction of the nuclear power plant at Daya Bay was halted after the discovery of missing bars in the No. 1

reactor’s foundation raft.”