WASHINGTON, DC--Construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States is in danger of coming to a standstill, partly due to the high cost of the requirement whether existing or anticipated to capture all emissions of carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas. But an MIT analysis suggests an intermediate step that could get construction moving again, allowing the nation to fend off growing electricity shortages using our most-abundant, least-expensive fuel while also reducing emissions.
Instead of capturing all of its CO2 emissions, plants could capture a significant fraction of those emissions with less costly changes in plant design and operation, the MIT analysis shows.
"Our approach 'partial capture' can get CO2 emissions from coal-burning plants down to emissions levels of natural gas power plants," said Ashleigh Hildebrand, a graduate student in chemical engineering and the Technology and Policy Program. "Policies such as California's Emissions Performance Standards could be met by coal plants using partial capture rather than having to rely solely on natural gas, which is increasingly imported and subject to high and volatile prices."
Hildebrand will present her findings on Nov. 18 at the 9th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies in Washington, DC. Her co-author is Howard J. Herzog, principal research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative and chair of the conference organizing committee.
The United States is facing a pressing need for more power plants that run essentially all the time. Renewable sources aren't suited to the task, nuclear plants can't be built quickly enough, and expanded reliance on natural gas raises price and energy-security concerns. Coal, which now supplies more than half of all U.S. electricity, seems the best option.
But as several states have started to regulate CO2 emissions, and others are expected to follow
|Contact: Elizabeth Thomson|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology