Imperial College panel discussion finds CCS in UK knocked out but alive
Imperial College London held a panel discussion at the end of January on the future of CCS in light of the UK government’s decision in November last year to cancel its CCS competition. Provocatively entitled ‘Is carbon capture and storage dead?’, the discussion suggested that internationally that was not the case at all, and that in the UK CCS has only been knocked unconscious. CCS was recognised as the only means to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from heavy industries (such as steelmaking and cement producing), and thus vital even apart from the need for it in the power generation sector. Panellists also suggested that there should be a separation between capture and storage, and that there should be a European Carbon agency that develops transport and storage of carbon dioxide, perhaps somewhat analogous to stormwater drainage networks. In addition, a ‘realistic’ carbon price should be fixed to establish a stable incentive for implementing CCS. Panellist Mike Thompson from the Committee on Climate Change told the audience that his organisation had written to the UK government to ask that it sets a new CCS approach by the end of this year.
Swiss attorney general releases names of companies linked to 1MDB corruption scandal
The Swiss attorney general has released the names of several entities that it believes has been involved in corruption centred around Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which invests in power plants amongst other things. The tangled web includes companies and banks in the Seychelles, Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and the Swiss attorney general believes that up to a staggering $US 4 billion (€3.69 billion) was misappropriated from the fund. 1MDB was set up in 2009 by then (and current) Prime Minister Najib Razak, and a separate investigation by the Malaysian government last year found that almost $US 700 million (€646 million) eventually found its way into accounts held by Mr Razak, though the Malaysian attorney general has found that a large part of that was through a legal donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family (while Saudi Arabia’s finance and foreign ministries have said they have no knowledge of the donation). Some of the misappropriation appears to be related to power plants which 1MDB purchased for seemingly inflated prices from Malaysian companies Gentling and Tanjong, assets which 1MDB is currently trying to sell. With Malaysian authorities also investigating the possible wrongdoings, it appears that there must be strong tensions within the country, the sitting Prime Minister being the subject of the investigations.
SSE likely to close three of four units at Fiddler’s Ferry in test for stand-by capacity system
Britain’s SSE is most likely to close three of the four units at its 1,995 MW Fiddler’s Ferry coal-fired power plant, situated near the city of Manchester. The plant had been awarded a stand-by capacity contract for the 2018/19 year, but recently lost out on a bid for a contract for the 2019/20 year, which seems to be influencing the comapny’s outlook. “The plant at the station is aging, its method of generating electricity is being rendered out of date and it has been, and is expected to continue to be, loss-making,” a representative of SSE told the media. While it would cost SSE £33 million (€43 million/$US 48 million) to breech the stand-by capacity contract, it appears that it stands to lose more than that by remaining open. The likely decision is an intriguing reflection on the UK’s capacity auction system, raising questions about its ability to assure standby capacity, and will give food for thought to other countries considering introducing similar schemes. There is the additional possibility that the final unit will also be closed after the 2015/16 financial year, during which the plant has a contract to provide market balancing services to the National Grid. It is likely that the three units not part of the 2015/16 contract will close by 1 April, and staff at the plant are currently being consulted about the closure.
CO2 Solutions wins commercialisation grant for enzyme-based carbon capture system
Canadian company CO2 Solutions has been awarded $CAD 15 million ($US 10.9 million /€9.8 million) to help commercialize its enzyme-based carbon capture and storage technology, applying it at a location in the Alberta tar sands region. A demonstration-scale capture plant using the company’s technology was previously independently verified to remove CO2 at a highly competitive cost of $CAD 28/tonne ($US 20.30/tonne, €18.2/tonne), though this does not appear to include transportation and storage costs. The contract was awarded by the Climate Change Emissions Management Corporation, an initiative of the Government of Alberta.
University of Texas research suggests means of reducing energy consumption for solvent-based CO2 capture
In further CCS news, a study by the University of Texas has found that capture could become more energy efficient (in solvent-based capture systems) by reducing the amount of excess heat lost in the process of heating the solvent to capture the CO2. To achieve this end, hot CO2-rich solvent would be used to heat cooler solvent, thus reducing the overall energy required to heat the solvent. The solvent heat exchanger has been trialled successfully at the Pickle Research Campus pilot plant.
Duke Energy to sell international arm
The USA’s largest power generator by capacity, Duke Energy, has announced its intention to sell its foreign power plants, which are located mostly in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The decision is an about-face for Duke, which only last year concluded after a comprehensive review that it would keep its international business. However, the South American power plants have not been returning the profits expected of them, and Duke has decided to reduce its exposure in ‘unregulated’ markets (including those in the US). The decision to sell is a rather major one, given that the international arm is worth around 12% of Duke’s entire business, although the 25% of Saudi Arabian National Methanol Co which the company owns will not be sold.
PSEG to invest $US 1.6 billion into gas-fired plants
Keeping with news from the US, Public Service Enterprise Group has announced it is to spend $US 1.6 billion (€1.43 billion) on upgrading existing gas-fired power plants as well as new plants as the glut of gas supply in North America continues. PSEG has seen the rate of operation of its combined-cycle gas plants rise from around 20% to 70% in recent years, reflecting the falling gas price. Though the company is expanding its gas-firing, it retains a strategic desire to have a diversified power generation fleet which includes coal and nuclear as well as renewables. One of the new plants is likely to be a 500 MW combined-cycle plant to replace a coal-fired plant in Bridgeport, the only such plant in the state of Connecticut. However, it has no plans to shut coal-fired plants “as long as they make money.”
Israeli power plants planned to fire gas from Leviathan fields
Israel’s Edeltech and Turkey’s Zorlu Enerji are to build two new gas-fired power plants in Israel, after already partnering to build the Dorad Energy plant and Ashdod and Ramat Negev cogeneration plants. Gas to supply the two plants, which have not yet been sized, will be sourced from the Leviathan gas fields off the coast of Israel, which only last month gained development approval. Optimistic estimates have Leviathan beginning supply in 2018, with gas to be piped to Egypt and Jordan as well as Turkey, and perhaps even Europe.