Environmental Regulation

EPA Rule Carries High Costs for Coal

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: January 30th, 2014

Carbon capture technology, as required by Environmental Protection Agency’s draft standard, would force new coal power plants to use more fuel to meet their electricity load.

Electric co-ops tell EPA advisory board that the case cannot be made to require expensive carbon capture and storage on coal plants. (Photo By: VisualField)

Electric co-ops tell EPA advisory board that the case cannot be made to require expensive carbon capture and storage on coal plants. (Photo By: VisualField)

That’s what electric cooperatives told the EPA’s Science Advisory Board in a Jan. 21 teleconference the board held with industry stakeholders to garner feedback on the pending standards.

Lyle Witham, manager of environmental services at Basin Electric Power Cooperative, told the advisory board that carbon capture and storage for power plants remains unviable despite significant efforts to bring the technology on-line.

Bismarck, N.D.-based Basin Electric conducted a $6.4 million front-end engineering and design study from 2007 to 2010 with the North Dakota Industrial Commission and the Lignite Research Council to determine the viability of a 120-megawatt CCS project at the Antelope Valley Station. The plant is near the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, which has captured and stored more than 25 million tons of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery since 2000.

The study concluded that CCS was not economically viable, even with access to a CO2 pipeline and compressor, available shipping capacity and a $100 million grant from the Department of Energy for the project, Witham said.

EPA proposed carbon dioxide standards for new coal-based power plants in keeping with the Obama administration’s climate change strategy. The agency in June is expected to propose another carbon dioxide rule for the nation’s existing coal fleet.

Michael McInnes, senior vice president for production at Tri-State Generation and Transmission in Westminster, Colo., underscored that carbon capture technology remains unproven for electric power generation and raised concerns about its costs.

Operating a new power plant with carbon capture and storage would eat up from one-tenth to about one-third of a power plant’s energy.  “The case for CCS just can’t be made,” McInnes told the board.

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