Key figures gathered at the Coal Innovation Centre of RWE Power in Niederaussem, Germany, earlier this week to officially put into operation the pilot scrubbing plant for power station flue gases.
The project’s aim is to advance the development of a technology that is key to achieving climate-friendly power generation.
Forty percent of the €9m project is being financed by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Dr Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg represented the Ministry at the inauguration and said, $quot;Modern technologies enable us to use coal, one of the important energy sources, while at the same time meeting our climate protection goals. The CO2 scrubbing plant brings us one step closer to a ‘coal-fired power plant of the future’.”
In his words of welcome, Dr Juergen Ruettgers, State Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, stressed the importance of further optimising existing power generation technologies to support climate protection. He said it is the State Government’s aim to reduce CO2 emissions in North Rhine-Westphalia by 81m tons by 2020, adding, “North Rhine-Westphalia already is the No. 1 energy state in Germany. And we are set to become the No. 1 State for climate protection as well. We can get there, step by step. Together with BASF and Linde, RWE has taken such a step today.”
The first tests at the pilot plant already delivered promising results in July this year. The plant is capable of capturing roughly 300kgs of CO2 per hour from a partial flow of power station flue gases, and capture efficiency is 90%.
All aspects of CO2 scrubbing will be investigated at the plant under realistic conditions. In this way the companies hope to gather experience for later large-scale plants that will be retrofitted in modern coal- or gas-fired power stations from 2020.
The use of captured carbon dioxide is the subject of other research activities. The project is part of a major investment and research programme with which RWE intends to increase the environmental friendliness of power generation.
“The only way to really reduce CO2 is to get out of the laboratory and build large test plants in order to obtain tangible results to support climate protection,” said RWE CEO Dr Juergen Grossmann.
The main pillars of the RWE programme are the expansion of power generation based on renewables and the development of technology for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide.
RWE Power is co-operating with The Linde Group on process engineering for CO2 scrubbing, and on scrubbing solvents with BASF, the chemicals group. The aim is to significantly reduce the energy needed to capture CO2.
“To achieve economic solutions in CO2 capture, we need a sense of responsibility that goes hand in hand with technical expertise,” Professor Dr Wolfgang Reitzle, CEO of Linde, underlined.
“Both elements are available at the companies participating in this project. The pilot project will supply vital results for further improvements in climate protection.”
CEO of BASF SE, Dr Juergen Hambrecht, also referred to the benefits of co-operation between the three companies, he said, “With its recently developed solvents for CO2 scrubbing, BASF is bringing its expertise to bear in the joint pilot project with RWE Power and Linde. Today, we have come an important step closer to our common objective of developing an efficient process for more climate protection.”
Grossmann also emphasised the fundamental significance of CCS technology for Germany as an economic area saying, “We need the close alliance between industry and government to advance this technology.”
The climate-friendly CCS technology is not only important for power station operators but also for refineries, chemical plants, steelworks and cement factories. Industrial maturity for the technology can only be achieved through substantial financial and political support, he said.
Grossmann also stressed the necessity to place CCS at the top of the political agenda after the parliamentary elections adding,“This means we need suitable CCS legislation as quickly as possible.”
The pilot plant for CO2 flue gas scrubbing is part of RWE Power’s Coal Innovation Centre. This is also where the company operates a prototype plant for pre-drying lignite, a pilot plant for integrating CO2 in algae biomass and a REAplus high-performance scrubber for improved separation of dust and sulphur dioxide from flue gas.
RWE Power is financing these projects with a total of €90m. They are all linked to the world’s most modern and efficient lignite-fired power plant currently in operation, RWE Power’s BoA 1 at Niederaussem.