Monday, November 06, 2006

Coal that doesn't pollute?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and heads of the Swedish company Vattenfall broke ground for a pilot coal power plant that will not release carbon dioxide (CO2) - the main culprit in global warming - or any other pollutant. The plant is scheduled to begin running in 2008.

The coal is burned in a steam chamber with pure oxygen. The smoke from that process is cleaned, separated from the CO2 and then liquefied.
But it's not the silver bullet; the nonpolluting coal plant is even less efficient than a traditional coal-fired power plant, about 35% efficient compared to 45%. Figuring out where to store the CO2 is still being worked out, and of course the whole process ain't cheap. But the Germans have a lot of coal, and figuring out a way to efficiently and economically capture and store CO2 is key to a clean energy supply. Germany already produces more wind energy than any other country.

If the pilot plant runs well, Vattenfall plans to build another facility around 2015, and estimates the technology to be commercially
ready around 2020.

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