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Efficiency Improvements ‘Bigger Market’ than CO2 Sequestration

McpicThe regulatory measures to reduce greenhouse gases are creating $1 billion dollar per year market for CO2 mitigation equipment and services, but the amount to be spent for CO2 sequestration will be far less than for improving efficiency of existing combustors, according to analysis by McIlvaine Company.

From the perspective of an oil company looking for ways to enhance recovery, coal is ideal, the report says. Large amounts of CO2 — which is a key ingredient in recovering oil from otherwise spent wells — can be generated at low cost.

As an example, the report says Sask Power is building a CO2 capture system at its Boundary Dam plant. Due to the proximity of depleted oil fields, the cost of the capture system can quickly be offset by oil revenue increases, according to McIlvaine Company’s continually updated report, Utility CO2 Mitigation Markets.

The balance between the need for enhanced oil recovery and the availability of power plant CO2 is also favorable. Currently, need far exceeds the present CO2 generation. The problem is that much of the need is remote from the generation. The result is that CO2 sequestration will be too expensive for all but a few sites.

Earlier this month a partnership led by science and technology company Battelle began a large-scale carbon dioxide injection test in Michigan oil fields as part of a national effort to develop carbon capture methods.

McIlvaine says one solution is a new global strategy that marries coal-fired power generation and enhanced oil recovery.  Coal could be economically shipped to Saudi Arabia and coal-fired power plants that are constructed there could economically furnish the CO2 for recovery.  The gas and oil which would no longer be burned to generate Saudi power would be exported. However, the degree of cooperation between countries that is needed to make this happen is “unlikely” to occur, according to McIlvaine.

Furthermore, the concept of quickly replacing coal with other fuels is impractical, costly and not the best environmental option, McIlvaine says.

The biggest opportunity is the increased efficiency at existing coal-fired power plants, McIlvaine says. Utilizing gravimetric rather than volumetric coal feed, upgrading the combustion system, utilizing optimization and other renovations can cause large CO2 reductions.  An ultra-supercritical power plant generates 30 percent less CO2than an old sub-critical power plant, according to McIlvaine.

Cogeneration combined with higher efficiency can cut the CO2 emissions by 50 percent.  A power plant with a steam plume “is a power plant that needs cogeneration,” the company says. Rather than unproductively evaporating large amounts of water, the power plant can supply the energy for an ethanol plant or even to a co-located sewage treatment plant or fish farm.

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