Sunday, March 26, 2006

Start-up of the largest installation in the world to capture CO2 in the flue gases of a coal-fired power station - European Castor Project, Denmark

On 15 March, the CO2-capture industrial pilot unit of the Castor project, coordinated by IFP and financed by the European Commission (FP6), was inaugurated at the Esbjerg power plant (Denmark), operated by Elsam. It is the largest installation in the world that captures CO2 in the flue gases of a coal-fired power station.

The most promising approach to reducing the volume of CO2 emitted by large industrial facilities (cement works, power stations, refineries, etc.), which account for more than 60% of world emissions, is "capture and geological storage", which consists of recovering the gas generated in large quantities and injecting it into the subsoil.

From an economic point of view, there is a high priority need for significant advances in capture technologies. This step, which accounts for approximately 70% of the total cost of the capture/storage approach, requires a significant input of energy, resulting in high costs and secondary emissions of CO2.

The Castor project pilot is expected to improve considerably the effectiveness and economic performance of the process of extracting dilute CO2 from industrial flue gases. To separate the CO2 - at a low concentration in the flue gases - from the other gases (oxygen, water vapor, and nitrogen) at atmospheric pressure, several solvents belonging to the amines family are being tested and optimized. The pilot also includes a solvent regeneration system that uses a limited amount of energy. As a result of this, substantial cost savings can be expected. Estimated costs of conventional processes for CO2 capture in the flue gases of large industrial facilities range from 50 to 60 Euros per tonne of CO2. The Elsam industrial pilot is expected to have the cost per tonne of CO2 avoided, to between 20 and 30 Euros.

The implementation of the Castor pilot is a big step towards demonstrating the feasibility of the new CO2 capture/storage technologies. The process, which enables one tonne of CO2 to be captured per hour, is being tested on a large enough scale to ensure reliable industrial extrapolation.


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