Carbon Capture

carbon scrubbing towers from a power plant with steam coming out of the top" title="carbon scrubbing towers from a power plant with steam coming out of the top

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities need to be reduced as part of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Current carbon capture technologies are very energy intensive and nearly double the cost of generating electricity. Therefore, U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) has set a goal of developing a technology that can remove 90% of the CO2 released from coal combustion with a 30% lower cost of electricity than the current benchmark approaches.

In addition, in August 2015, President Obama and U.S. EPA announced the Clean Power Plan to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants - reducing national emissions by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Furthermore, the U.S. and, in particular, Illinois are still have major generating capacity for coal burning. With the stable low prices of coal as compared to natural gas and other fossil fuels, coal still remains an attractive low cost option for power plants (Figures 1 & 2).

To help the U.S. meet its new goals, ISTC and its sister survey the Illinois State Geological Survey, both a part of the Prairie Research Institute, are investigating carbon capture methods at not only the lab scale but also at large pilot scale.

  • Lab-scale - Developing an innovative, low-cost approach for carbon dioxide (CO2) capture from burning coal during electrical generation
  • Large pilot-scale - Testing of New Carbon Capture System
Graph of natural gas prices verses coal prices in 2013 dollars per million Btu.  On the graph from 2005-2008 natural gas prices are from about 7.5-10 dollars whereas coal is 1.5 dollars. Then from 2009-2013 natural gas is about 3-4 dollars while coal is 2 dollars. The graph shows that coal stays steady over years while natural gas prices jump around, and natural gas prices are always higher than coal." title="Graph of natural gas prices verses coal prices in 2013 dollars per million Btu.  On the graph from 2005-2008 natural gas prices are from about 7.5-10 dollars whereas coal is 1.5 dollars. Then from 2009-2013 natural gas is about 3-4 dollars while coal is 2 dollars. The graph shows that coal stays steady over years while natural gas prices jump around, and natural gas prices are always higher than coal.
Figure 1: Natural Gas vs. Coal Prices (data from U.S. Energy Information Administration [EIA]).

  Graph shows U.S. history and projections of electricity generation by fuel source with 2013 as the dividing line between history and projections. In 2000 the total trillion kilowatthours was 3.75 with natural gas making up 16%, renewables at 9%, nuclear at 20%, coal at 52% and petroleum and other liquids at 3%. In 2013 the total trillion kilowatthours was 4.25 with natural gas making up 27%, renewables at 13%, nuclear at 19%, coal at 39% and petroleum and other liquids at 1%. The projections for 2040 show that total might be just above 5 trillion kilowatthours with natural gas making up 31%, renewables at 18%, nuclear at 16%, coal at 34%, and petroleum and other liquids at 1%." title="Graph shows U.S. history and projections of electricity generation by fuel source with 2013 as the dividing line between history and projections. In 2000 the total trillion kilowatthours was 3.75 with natural gas making up 16%, renewables at 9%, nuclear at 20%, coal at 52% and petroleum and other liquids at 3%. In 2013 the total trillion kilowatthours was 4.25 with natural gas making up 27%, renewables at 13%, nuclear at 19%, coal at 39% and petroleum and other liquids at 1%. The projections for 2040 show that total might be just above 5 trillion kilowatthours with natural gas making up 31%, renewables at 18%, nuclear at 16%, coal at 34%, and petroleum and other liquids at 1%.
Figure 2: U.S. Electricity generation by fuel in Reference case, 2000-2040 (source: EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2015).