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Carnegie Mellon University Researches Carbon Capture Costs

Monday, Aug 13, 2007
Article Type: Reprinted

A new study has been published by Carnegie Mellon University, looking at the total cost of carbon capture electricity generation, taking into account variables such as the higher cost of money for new technologies, different types of coal, and changing plant utility.

The study is written by Edward S. Rubin, Chao Chen, Anand B. Rao, of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University.

The researchers made use of a the Integrated Environmental Control Model modeling tool, developed by Carnegie Mellon University for the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, to assess different scenarios.

They studied the total cost of electricity for pulverized coal plus carbon capture, coal based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), and natural gas combined cycle (NGCC), also comparing costs to what they would be without carbon capture.

The report noted a number of reasons why final costs could vary substantially from cost predictions published to date.

The cost of money lending for IGCC technology could be more than money lending for pulverized coal technology, due to the extra perceived risk for investors of IGCC. However, if governments decide to encourage IGCC with government backed loans, the cost of money will decrease.

The cost of power generation with IGCC varies much more with the type of coal, than pulverized coal technology. For example, a plant burning (low rank) ND Lignite coal will have a cost of electricity of nearly 1.7 of what it would be with (high rank) Pittsburgh #8 coal, whilst a pulverized coal power plant would see a cost of electricity of 1.17 for ND Lignite compared to Pittsburgh #8.

This means that the commonly held belief that IGCC is cheaper than pulverized coal is not necessarily correct, if lower ranking coal supplies are being used.

The study also noted that many other cost prediction studies have been based on a gas price of under $4 per gigajoules; prices have risen in recent years and $6 per gigajoule might be a more realistic figure.

As well as changing the equation for the cost of electricity, high gas prices also lead to a lower utilization of the plant, with some US gas turbine plants having a utilization of under 30 percent.

Clearly the cost of electricity varies with the plant utilization, and this is another factor which needs to be taken into account.

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