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The National Academies Summit on America’s Energy Future: Summary of a Meeting
MOVING FORWARD WITH DEMONSTRATION PROJECTS
To begin the process now requires that technology development and demonstration projects begin immediately. “We need to put a demonstration program in place over the next 10 to 15 years,” said Moniz. “It must operate at large scale. It’s not good enough to have a bunch of small projects.”
The major problem is that large-scale demonstration projects are expensive—typically $100 million per year for a decade, “and that’s significant change, even if you are a large oil company.” Moniz called for roughly $4 billion of public funds over a decade for a portfolio of demonstration studies. Similarly, Steven Specker, in a summary of work done by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), called for a series of pilot-scale projects involving various capture technologies. “We have to develop the pilots and focus on getting the cost of capturing carbon dioxide down,” he said. “Then we have to scale those up to demonstrations.” Finally, technologies need to be integrated into full-scale plants.
The adoption of CCS has important implications for the kinds of coal plants that are constructed in the future. Some kinds of plants are more easily adapted to CCS technologies than others, and some can be retrofitted much more economically if a decision is made later to adopt CCS. There is no clear technology winner at the moment, Moniz said, and different plants will be needed for different situations, such as different types of coal. “The real message is that we need several projects going on in parallel and not serially.”
Specker laid out a timeline for the parallel development of different plant and sequestration technologies, noting that EPRI was recently involved in the startup of a pilot project in Wisconsin to capture carbon dioxide using chilled ammonia (Figure 5.3). “This is real hardware that’s really going to break,” Specker said. “It’s really going to have problems. We’re going to learn from it. We’re going to figure it out. This is what it takes to get the technology evolved. Analysis doesn’t do it. You have to build it. You have to operate it, you have to learn from it, and then you have to scale it up.”
Both Specker and Moniz mentioned the recent cancellation by the Department of Energy of the FutureGen project, which was a $1 billion project to design, build, and operate a coal-fired power plant with CCS. Later in the summit, Samuel Bodman cited cost overruns for the decision along with a choice to spend the money on several projects rather than one. “We are not walking away from carbon sequestration,” Bodman said. “On the contrary, we are going to fund it in a very aggressive fashion…. We’re trying to redirect the money in a more intelligent way, but that’s hard to do in Washington.”
Moniz, in his talk, said that the reasons given by the Department of Energy for FutureGen’s cancellation were that the demonstration projects needed to be closer to commercial application and that funding a portfolio of projects was a