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Mountaineer CCS project moves the industry closer to addressing coal’s carbon emissions

by on November 9, 2010

Story written by Rachel Hammer

NEW HAVEN, W.Va. — Just a year ago, AEP made history when it began operating the first fully integrated carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) project.

The project validation facility, installed on the Mountaineer Plant at New Haven, W.Va., uses Alstom’s patented chilled ammonia process (CAP) to remove CO2 from a 20 megawatt-electric (MWe) stream of the 1,300 MW unit’s exhaust. The CO2 then is injected through wells on site into deep geologic layers more than 1.5 miles underground where it is permanently stored.

The capture portion of the project began operation September 1, 2009, and storage began October 1 of that year.

“Once again AEP is leading the industry with respect to advancing technology,” said Bill Sigmon, senior vice president – Engineering, Projects & Field Services. “CCS is critical to assuring that

Mountaineer Plant is the site of AEP's carbon capture and storage project.

coal is maintained as one of the fundamental energy sources for our industry. The project team worked tirelessly in meeting the schedule and delivering the expected results.”

At the end of its first year of operation the project is meeting its objectives. It has demonstrated that carbon capture and storage technologies can be integrated on an existing coal-fired power plant. The project also continues to provide valuable insights and lessons that can be applied to the design and operation of future commercial scale installations.

“The project is achieving its purpose,” said Rob Bollinger, project manager for the operating project. “In general, both technologies work as planned.” According to Bollinger, in the first 10 months of operation — more than 4,400 hours — the project captured more than 21,000 metric tons of CO2 and successfully stored more than 15,000 metric tons.

As to be expected when applying new technology, the project hasn’t been entirely without its challenges. But project operators AEP, Alstom and storage consultant Battelle have not encountered major surprises, either.

For example, the injection well that AEP and Battelle expected to have the better injection potential has not performed as well as expected and some re-work is being performed during the unit’s fall outage. However, the other injection well has performed much better than expected.

The project team also has made several modifications to the capture system to address operational concerns and improve overall system performance.

Bollinger added that formal performance testing will be conducted over the coming winter. At this time, the performance team will formally evaluate the system’s performance against contractual criteria established at the beginning of the project

The project continues to provide valuable data needed to improve and advance the technologies. AEP plans to continue operating the facility in the near term to further evaluate the local geology for storage, in preparation for a planned scale-up of the technology.

AEP, Alstom and others now plan to take the technologies to commercial scale. This project will treat a 235 MWe stream of the plant’s flue gas to capture and store approximately 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 annually.

According to Brian Sherrick, project manager for the commercial scale project, lessons learned, operating data, successes and areas for improvement are continually noted, studied and evaluated for application in the upcoming project.

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding a portion of that project — 50 percent of project costs up to $334 million. That project will begin operation in 2015.

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