September 23, 2009

APS gets $70 mil grant to study carbon emissions

Arizona Public Service Co. will get $70.5 million in stimulus funding to study ways to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from coal power plants that contribute to global warming, the Energy Department said Tuesday.

APS will use the money for a 60-acre research project at the Cholla Power Plant between Holbrook and Winslow on Interstate 40 in northern Arizona's Navajo County.

"This project allows us to research some of the issues with using coal and brings economic activity to a part of Arizona where the unemployment rate is about 13 percent,"

APS spokesman Steven Gotfried said.

The complex research will study cleaner ways to make electricity from coal and how to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from coal plants that is released to the atmosphere.

APS researchers will use heat and pressure to convert coal to syngas, a fuel that can be piped and burned similar to natural gas. That process also will create char, which can be burned for electricity.

APS will attempt to capture the carbon-dioxide emissions from burning char for another use.

"The CO2 from burning the char will be food for algae," Gotfried said.

The algae will use the CO2 like a fertilizer, and APS will test if the algae can be grown fast enough to be raised for fuel. Algae contain oils that can be pressed out and converted to biodiesel for vehicles.

The project is a takeoff of two existing research projects at APS. The company has tested algae as a way to get rid of carbon dioxide at a natural-gas burning plant, and also has worked with gasification.

The grant is part of $1.52 billion in the stimulus act earmarked for research into ways to capture and store carbon from power plants.

APS also is drilling deep wells near Cholla and pumping CO2 into the ground to see if it can safely be stored there, assuming it could be captured somehow from the power-plant emissions.

That project is using CO2 purchased for the research, not from the power plant.

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