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Coal Without Carbon

September 1, 2009 Category: Industry

There is widespread agreement that technologies for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) from coal fired power plants are an essential tool to mitigate global climate change. While current technology can do the job, more efficient and less expensive CCS-related technologies would be highly beneficial.

This study examines several technologies for CCS that are not currently receiving adequate development support but that could – in the right policy environment – provide the kind of significant cost reductions (and significant improvements in efficiency) that could greatly accelerate broad, economically attractive CCS deployment. Several gasification technologies that “enable” CCS by reducing overall energy systems costs and improving efficiency also play a prominent role in this report. The most significant of these may be gasification of coal directly in wet seams deep underground so that a gaseous fuel can be extracted.

Clean Air Task Force selected these technology areas (though not the technologies themselves) and solicited reports from experts in each field to explore how these technologies might fit into a broader CCS deployment strategy. Each expert was asked to develop a research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) “road map” that could efficiently move each technology from the laboratory into the commercial mainstream. Because the chapter authors are either technical experts or commercial players and are not, for the most part, energy policy experts, subsequent work will translate their RD&D recommendations into actionable policy proposals.

The heart of this report consists of four chapters on advanced coal and CCS technologies:

  • Underground coal gasification (UCG), written by Julio Friedmann at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory;
  • Next generation coal gasification (surface-based gasification) led by Eric Redman at Summit Power Group;
  • Advanced technologies for post-combustion capture (PCC) of CO2, led by Howard Herzog at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and
  • RD&D to speed commercialization of geological CO2 sequestration (GCS), led by Julio Friedmann.

Each chapter has been written as much for other experts in the field as for policy makers. Still, an effort has been made to make the information accessible.