A Boost for CO2 Capture Initiatives

Left: Dr Abdul Qader, Capture Facilities Manager at CO2CRC (middle) in front of the PCC pilot plant at GDF SUEZ Australian Energy's Hazelwood Power Station

The cheap and abundant supply of electricity from brown coal has long underpinned the economic growth of Victoria. Currently, brown coal provides approximately 90 per cent of the State’s electricity.

Since the electricity is produced by a small number of generators, capture of CO2 at the power stations is potentially a very efficient way to reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, if each power station was to capture only half of the CO2 that is presently emitted, the State’s greenhouse gas emissions would fall by 25 per cent. This is more than the 20 per cent reductions target set by the Federal government.

Potentially, this greenhouse gas reduction could be achieved at a lower cost than by some renewables, would not require changes to the existing electricity transmission infrastructure, and would allow uninterrupted base load electricity production.

BCIA supports the view that cost-effective CO2 capture is essential for the long-term future of brown coal use in Victoria.

While CO2 capture is technically feasible today and applied at scale for natural gas processing, there is a need for further R&D, and demonstration work, to reduce the energy penalty and costs to a level where it can be more broadly applied for electricity generation and industrial applications.

Previous experience has shown that pilot-scale trial work is a very effective way for researchers to overcome the practical challenges of CO2 capture and to develop more efficient strategies for cost reduction.

BCIA is currently supporting three projects which involve pilot-scale trials of exciting new approaches to post-combustion capture (PCC) of CO2.

One project, led by AGL Loy Yang, involves the use of CSIRO’s amine-based pilot plant at Loy Yang A power station. This project forms part of a broader CSIRO pilot plant program, which aims to develop cost-effective PCC and involves separate projects with Tarong Power in Queensland and Delta Electricity in NSW.

The aim of the BCIA-funded project is to trial two different PCC technologies for simultaneous capture of both CO2 and SO2. The solvents that are currently used for CO2 capture are very sensitive to contamination by SO2 and require a preliminary desulphurisation step, which adds to the overall cost. The solvents are also not very energy-efficient, so a major goal is to reduce the energy penalty of CO2 capture.

Dr Erik Meuleman, Research Group Leader at CSIRO, has recently overseen the installation and commissioning of the pilot plant at Loy Yang A power station and testing is now under way for two new PCC technologies.

One is an advanced amine-based solvent that has been developed in-house by CSIRO, and the other is a system for continuous stripping of SO2 from the solvent stream, provided by the EU-funded “iCap” project.

A second project, led by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), is under way at GDF SUEZ Australian Energy Hazelwood power station.

The CO2CRC pilot plant is a modified version of a pre-combustion capture rig that was previously used during the ETIS and BCIA-funded CO2CRC/HRL Mulgrave Capture Projects.

The pilot plant was modified by Process Group to allow the use of CO2CRC’s UNO Mk 3 precipitating solvent system

and intends to demonstrate an effective system for handling precipitating solids, and to generate the data needed for further scale up.

Preliminary studies in a laboratory rig at Melbourne University have established the potential for this process to reduce the energy penalty of PCC.

The third project, led by Process Group, is being run in conjunction with the CO2CRC pilot plant trials. Process Group is working with US-based Westec Environmental Solutions LLC (WES), to trial the WES Absorber™ Technology.

This is a novel type of gas-liquid contactor with higher mass transfer efficiency than conventional absorbers. The project aims to demonstrate the potential of WES Absorber™ Technology to significantly reduce the capital cost requirement of PCC.

Right: CO2CRC engineer testing the Absorber Technology on site

Dr Abdul Qader, Capture Facilities Manager with CO2CRC, has overseen the installation and commissioning of the modified PCC pilot plant, which will allow testing of these two novel PCC technologies.

The pilot plant is located adjacent to the existing 25 tonne/day Carbon Capture Plant (CCP), currently the largest PCC plant in Australia, capturing CO2 using conventional solvent technology and by reaction with fly-ash to produce solid calcium carbonate for storage.

Above: PCC pilot plant and WES Absorber at GDF SUEZ Australian Energy Hazelwood

The BCIA-funded pilot trials being undertaken by CSIRO, CO2CRC and Process Group are intended to demonstrate the feasibility of new technologies which have the potential to significantly reduce the costs associated with PCC.

Support of these projects by two of the local electricity generators, AGL Loy Yang and GDF SUEZ Australian Energy Hazelwood, highlights the significance of this work to the future of brown coal-fired power generation in Victoria.

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