U.K. Carbon Capture Project Gets Big Boost

May 14, 2014
Major government funding could spur construction of unit at coal-fired power plant

A U.K.-based carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) project has taken a big step forward with the announcement that it's in line for a €300-million ($418 million) funding boost from the European Union (E.U.).
The White Rose CCS project is run by Capture Power, a consortium of Alstom U.K., Drax Power and National Grid. Based at the Drax power station in Selby, U.K., the project will take carbon dioxide from a new coal-fired power station to be built on the same site and then store it in saline aquifers under the North Sea.

When up and running, White Rose will generate 426 MW of power, with 90% of its carbon dioxide emissions — 2 million metric tons/year — being captured and permanently stored. The gas is to be transported under the North Sea through a new National Grid pipeline.

At the heart of the process is Alstom's oxyfuel combustion technology. This concept entails: using oxygen instead of air for the combustion process to obtain a carbon-dioxide-rich flue gas mainly composed of carbon dioxide and water (as well as some inert gases) that can be cleaned and compressed; and obtaining an adequate purity of carbon dioxide in the flue gas to reach a composition suitable for transport and subsequent storage.

The process also requires integrating two additional units to those deployed at a conventional coal-fired power plant. First is an air separation unit to extract oxygen out of the surrounding air. Second is a carbon dioxide gas purification unit to clean and compress the carbon dioxide out of the flue gas.

The power plant itself also will require some modifications, including partially recirculating the flue gas to maintain the required temperature and heat absorption in the furnace, and removing water from the flue gas before treatment in the gas processing unit.

Oxyfuel combustion technology already has been demonstrated at pilot scale; the White Rose CCS project is a demonstration plant designed to prove the technology at commercial scale.

Alstom will be responsible for construction and Drax for the operation and maintenance of the power plant including the carbon dioxide capture facilities. BOC will be responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of the air separation unit that provides oxygen for plant operations.

"This is a huge win for Britain that could secure millions of pounds of E.U. funding to support the country's first carbon-capture power station, and perhaps the first in Europe," says local member of the European Parliament Chris Davies.

In 2012, the E.U. attempted to boost the development of CCS technology, but was unable to find a single project to fund. The E.U. then asked member governments a second time to submit proposals for CCS projects.

At this point, the U.K. nominated the White Rose project and, as it remains the only eligible project put forward, it's expected to be awarded the €300 million in June. As well as European funding, Capture Power also is seeking money from the U.K. Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration Program. "The project will be dependent on a successful outcome of these funding processes, and also on the successful outcome of negotiations with the government to establish appropriate market mechanisms to incentivize low-carbon technologies and provide support to the project," notes the consortium.

If all goes according to plan, a final investment decision will be made in 2015, with construction starting in 2016. White Rose should be operational in 2020.
The company completed a series of public exhibitions about its plans in April, with the formal consultation period completed in May. Views and suggestions received are now being considered, prior to an expected submission of a development consent order seeking planning permission in the autumn of 2014.

Among the national benefits expected from the White Rose project are: the demonstration of oxyfuel CCS technology as a cost-effective and viable low-carbon technology; reducing carbon dioxide emissions to meet future environmental legislation and combat climate change; improving the U.K.'s security of electricity supply by providing a new, flexible and reliable coal-based low-carbon electricity generation option; generating enough low-carbon electricity to supply the energy needs of the equivalent of over 630,000 households; and acting as an anchor project for the development of a carbon dioxide transportation and storage network in the U.K.'s most energy intensive region, thereby facilitating decarburization and attracting new investment.

Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at [email protected]