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Oxy-fuel CCS test achieves close to 100 per cent carbon capture

Vattenfall said on Thursday that its carbon capture and storage pilot plant it Schwarze Pumpe in eastern Germany has been able to capture carbon dioxide CO2 emission with a purity level of 99.4 per cent. The experimental facility has been operating since September 2008 and is designed to capture about 75 000 tonnes CO2 each year.

The project is a collaboration with Alstom, who supplied much of the technology, and who invited a group of German and international journalists to the plant this week to view the clean coal technology. The carbon capture process uses oxy-fuel technology in which pulverized lignite fuel is burned with a mixture of high purity oxygen and re-circulated flue gas. The resulting flue gas contains primarily CO2 and water vapour, along with small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen and gases like SO2 and NOx. This flu gas is then processed to enrich the CO2 up to the level of 99.4per cent.

The Schwarze Pumpe pilot project has been operating for 2900 hours and has so far captured 1600 tonnes of CO2. Vattenfall and Alstom continue to study the combustion behaviour and material corrosion characteristics, with a view to commercializing Oxy-fuel carbon capture and storage technology by 2015. Hubertus Altmann, who is head of power plant business at Vattenfall Europe Generation, said that the next step would be to build a larger demonstration facility with two 125 MW units at Jänschwade in Germany by 2015.

Currently it is not possible for the full carbon capture and storage chain to be demonstrated in Germany until a CCS law is passed granting companies the right to store CO2 in underground saline aquifers. The CO2 produced at Schwarze Pumpe is used in a nearby industrial facility or vented. The demonstration plant will feature a pressurized fluidized bed drying facility for lignite, which is an integral part of the oxy-fuel process and which is designed to deliver a four per cent improvement in efficiency.

Alstom's Philippe Paelinck, who is the company's director of CO2 business development, called on EU to produce a directive on transport and storage of CO2 in order to allow the process to be fully demonstrated and to win public acceptance for the practice. "CCS is no more expensive than onshore wind now," said Paelinck. He called on regulators to create a level playing field for the technology and said that Oxy-fuel CCS could be retrofitted to the huge fleet of aging coal fired power plants in Europe.

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