NEWS RELEASE August 2021
BECCS at All the World’s Coal Plants Would Bring CO2 Levels Down to 360 ppm
CO2 levels have risen from 360 ppm to over 400 ppm in just 20 years. The reduction can be just as swift.
With BECCS (BioEnergy Carbon Capture and Sequestration), converted coal plants would take CO2 out of the atmosphere as rapidly as they once added it. So in just 20-30 years the level could be reduced to 360 ppm.
Despite reduction in coal fired capacity in some countries coal will remain a major power plant fuel. The IEA 2021 forecast assumes global GDP growth of 5.2% this year. Coal consumption will rise 2.6% to 7,432 Mt as a result of increased demand in China, India and Southeast Asia. The 2021 outlook includes strong GDP growth of 8.2% in China that will drive additional coal use, particularly in the electricity sector. Likewise, the rebound of electricity demand in Europe in 2021 will put a temporary brake on the structural decline of coal. Higher natural gas prices for power generation in the United States could make annual coal demand increase for the first time since 2013.
In 2003 world coal capacity was only 1.3 million MW. But this increased to 2.1 million MW in 2020. It is projected that coal fired capacity will reach 2.2 million MW in 2050 given the present plans. Retirements in Europe and the U.S will be offset by increases in Asia and Africa.
The cost of conversion of an existing coal fired plant such as Drax to BECSS is far less than building a green field plant. Therefore existing coal plants should be viewed as a resource to be preserved should the maximum amount of greenhouse gas reduction be needed.
If all coal fired plants were converted to bioenergy the coal fired power plant contribution would drop to 0. If all these plants installed BECCS the contribution would be a negative 7 billion tons of CO2 per year. This is an amount sufficient to insure reduction in ambient CO2 levels given modest reduction from other sources.
CO2 Contribution from Coal Fired Plants with Bioenergy With/Without Sequestration
The International Energy Association predicts that bioenergy use will be greater than oil and contribute one third of the world’s total energy. Much of the energy use in developing countries is biomass which is used for cooking and heating fuel. IEA also says that the technical potential for biomass is as great as the present coal use (388 EJ)
Drax is leading the way. It has converted a 4000 MW coal fired power plant to burn biomass. It owns wood pelletizing operations in the U.S and is moving forward with carbon capture and sequestration.
It is also working on related technologies such as manufacture of food pellets and use of turbines using gasified biomass. A number of other projects are moving forward including industrial projects in Europe where there is a readily available sequestration resource. In some cases the beneficial use of CO2 for EOR is practical due to the location.
The opportunity is particularly attractive for those Asian countries who will build coal fired plants in the next 10 years. If the potential for eventual conversion to BECCS is considered during the design, the conversion can be made more economic. For example fluid bed boilers are more fuel flexible than coal fired boilers.
BECCS will create large markets for many types of air, water and energy products.
McIlvaine is forecasting air, water and energy products for conversion of coal plants to BECCS along with geothermal, combined cycle gas plants, hydropower, hydrogen, and particulate heat exchanger storage. These are all major applications for these products.
McIlvaine is also evaluating wind, solar, and battery storage which in general would reduce the total market for air and water products.
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