By W. James O’Brien, W. James O’Brien Associates Industrial Cost Analysis Services
© American Coal Online
There are dozens of new designs for carbon dioxide capture and compression in development by the U.S. Department of Energy and private renewable energy device developers, all of which are unprecedented in their performance characteristics. However, while these designs complete their trials and approvals, equipment to remove sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide mixed with water (also known as “acid gases”), from mined natural gas, is already in service throughout the North American natural gas community. Furthermore, this equipment has been in use since the mining of natural gas for household and industrial use commenced in North America in the 1940s.
While the renewables community touts new technology and the concept of long-term, static under-ground sequestration of bulk carbon dioxide, a coal-fueled power plant can sell industrial-grade, Compressed Gas Association standards-compliant, carbon dioxide for $140 to $200 per metric tonne to local, national and export wholesale industrial gas distributors. The equipment needed for the job is available off-the-shelf or custom made to specific site requirements on a vendor-designed-and-built basis. It is even possible to lease this equipment on the basis of a percentage of stack gas by-product revenue.
But who uses carbon dioxide?
Practically every chemical and fertilizer manufacturer and refinery on the planet, including petroleum fuel refineries, to the tune of almost a billion metric tonnes exported and imported per year. Domestic usage in the U.S. alone approaches five times that level. This usage is amply demonstrated in data on world volume and prices for commodity carbon dioxide for 2011 from the United Nations COM-TRADE database (statistics shown are for export and import only).
The best way to explain the economics of this opportunity is with an example. Working from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s eGrid 2010 Version 1.1 Plant Emissions Inventory and selecting the 2,034 MWe nameplate capacity E.C. Gaston bituminous-fueled generation facility in Shelby County, Ala., this plant generated 2,128 lbs. of CO2 per MW/hr and produced a total of 12,122,564 megawatts of power in 2007. This works out to 11,516,435 metric tonnes of CO2 for 2007. At the U.S. spot price (prompt call, same as cash) for 2011 of $151/metric tonne, this works out to $1.739 billion dollars for physical-commodity compressed or refrigerated liquefied carbon dioxide if available FOB dockside at the plant meeting Compressed Gas Association (CGA), American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specifications for this product. Please bear in mind that this is a theoretical yield only: 60-75 percent of this throughput capacity, to include market placement, constitutes the present limits of existing technology and commonsense reality in an operational chemical facility.
This scenario would constitute complete removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, not merely reducing the rate of its generation by thermal power sources, as renewables sources claim their heavily subsidized wind and solar devices do. The final product is to be sold to make fertilizers, plastics, synfuels, lubricants, artificial fabrics and serve as refrigerant in closed-loop systems.
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