RWE says that the inauguration on 18 August of Germany’s first carbon dioxide scrubbing plant has brought it one step close to the development of a “coal-fired power plant of the future”.

The pilot plant – located at the utility’s Niederaussem coal-fired power plant in Germany – is a key part of RWE’s plans to commercialise carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as well as an important element of the German government’s climate change strategy. The EUR9 million project was 40 per cent funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

RWE and its partners in the project – BASF and Linde AG – say that operation of the pilot project will help to advance the development of CCS technology. Tests carried out at the facility earlier this year delivered “promising” results, say the companies.

“The only way to really reduce CO2 is to get out of the laboratory and build large test plants in order to obtain tangible results,” said RWE CEO Jürgen Großmann.

The pilot plant is capable of capturing roughly 300 kg of CO2 per hour from a proportion of the flow of power station flue gases. Capture efficiency is 90 per cent, says RWE, which says it will investigate all aspects of CO2 scrubbing under real-world conditions at the plant.

The project marks a milestone in RWE’s investment and research programme into CO2 capture, and also its partnership with Linde and BASF. The companies are also investigating process engineering for CO2 scrubbing and scrubbing solvents.

The aim is to significantly reduce the energy required to capture CO2. “To achieve economic solutions in CO2 capture, we need a sense of responsibility that goes hand in hand with technical expertise,” said Professor Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, Chief Executive Officer of Linde. “The pilot project will supply vital results for further improvements in climate protection.”

Großmann also emphasised the fundamental significance of CCS technology for Germany as an economic area. “We need the close alliance between industry and government to advance this technology.” He also called for “suitable CCS legislation as quickly as possible”.