AEP's Mountaineer plant going green
AEP's Mountaineer plant in New Haven is the first in the world to use new technology to both capture and sequester carbon dioxide emissions.
November 2, 2009 ·
AEP unveiled its CO2 capture and storage project to the public Friday at the Mountaineer plant in Mason County.
Media from around the world, and several state and federal lawmakers got a sneak peak at the first of its kind carbon capture and sequestration project.
In early October, AEP began injecting CO2 about a mile and a half underground at the Mountaineer plant in New Haven. French-based Alstom Power is one of several industry leaders partnering with AEP for the project.
Alstom President Philippe Joubert, said the technology being used at the Mountaineer plant is groundbreaking.
“This is what I call a turning point. This capturing of CO2 has been talked about for years and we are capturing, transporting it and storing it safely into the ground and that is why it is so important.”
The process begins by capturing carbon dioxide that is emitted from the coal burned at the power plant. Alstom created an “ammonia chilled” solution to help absorb the CO2. The solution is pressurized and heated. It is then compressed and piped deep underground where it becomes a liquid.
Some environmentalists are concerned about the safety of the process and how it could affect drinking water.
But Don McConnell, president of Battel Energy Technology, said the carbon capture and sequestration process is safe. His company has completed the geological studies for the Mountaineer project.
“It could be granite, limestone, there are several different formations, well here there are six different layers between the layer that the CO2 is going into the surface all of which are exactly like what holds natural gas below ground in oil and gas formations.”
McConnell added “You have to have a trapping layer as well as a layer that you can move it into, the two of those together basically provide a vault that you can keep the CO2 in and that is why we have confidence that this is a permanent solution for the CO2.”
Batelle is using live monitoring wells to track the CO2 underground. The system will work like a sonogram, using sound waves to see where CO2 is and how it is behaving.
The Mountaineer plant emits about 9 million tons of CO2 a year. The project will capture more than 100,000 tons of CO2 a year, or about 1.5 percent of the plant's total.
Other companies have tried injection, but not with CO2 captured at their own plant. They have purchased it from other sites. Some companies have also experimented with the capturing process but those emissions have been released back into the atmosphere.
AEP hopes to expand the Mountaineer project. The company has applied for more than $300 million in federal stimulus funds to install a commercial-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage system. The total cost is estimated at more than $600 million.
AEP President Michael Morris said its customers could see some price increases from the environmental upgrades. But he said the carbon capture and sequestration process is cost effective.
“Eventually, retrofitting the fleet throughout the United States and throughout the country will be extremely cost effective because we will be up against other options, the cost of a new nuclear station; we will be up against the cost of wind, natural gas fired stations and solar power.”
The Obama Administration is pushing the coal industry to have a viable commercial solution for CO2 emissions by 2020.
More than half of the country’s electricity needs come from coal. In the Midwest and coal producing states like West Virginia, 80 and 90 percent of power needs come from coal.
Gov. Joe Manchin and Sen. Jay Rockefeller also attended the event. Rockefeller said he believes coal has a bright future in the energy industry, and the technology will help meet new standards for greenhouse emissions.
“I have to be helping to prepare public opinion in WV to not be afraid of the one thing that is going to help keep coal at the front of the line and we can do that and today is a perfect example,” said Rockefeller.
If AEP can secure the stimulus money, it plans to begin commercial-size operations at the Mountaineer plant in 2015.