German corporate giants BASF, RWE Power and The Linde Group have signed an agreement to develop new processes for capturing CO2 from coal fired power plants. Their research will focus on CO2 scrubbing, and involve the construction of a pilot facility at RWE’s lignite-fired Niederaussem power plant in Germany.

The purpose of the pilot facility is the long-term testing of new solvents to capture CO2, and to gain a better understanding of the CO2 scrubbing process. The overall aim of the agreement is to apply CO2 capture technology commercially in lignite-fired power plants by 2020.

“We are accepting the challenges of climate protection and want to be proactive in pushing all the available options for the reduction and avoidance of CO2,” said Dr. Johannes Lambertz, Board member of RWE Power with responsibility for fossil fuelled power plants. “We are confident that, together with our partners, we will soon be developing the process of CO2 capture to commercial maturity so that this technology can be deployed in new and existing modern coal-fired power plants in the future.”

The scrubbing technology to be developed by the three companies should enable the removal of at least 90 per cent of the CO2 from power plant combustion gases. The CO2 will then be stored underground. BASF will supply the solvents while The Linde Group will be responsible for the engineering and construction of the pilot facility.

Following completion of pilot tests at the end of the decade, the companies will discuss development of a demonstration plant. This will be designed to provide a reliable basis for the commercialisation of the new process.

RWE Power has earmarked a budget of approximately EUR80 million for the project, including the construction and operation of the pilot facility and demonstration plants. The company’s long-term “CO2 avoidance” strategy involves building high-eficiency coal fired power plants, developing power plants with efficiencies in excess of 50 per cent, and designing all its modern coal fired power plants so that they can eventually be equipped with CO2 capture technology.

Apart from CO2 scrubbing, RWE Power is also developing the first carbon-neutral coal-fired power plant with CO2 transport and storage, based on integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC). This 450 MW plant is due to come on stream in 2014, although no decision has yet been taken as to where it should be located.