September 23, 2009

Consol Algae System a 'Clean' Technology to Cut Emissions, Waste Coal

(Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)trackingBy Kim Leonard, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Sep. 23--Clean coal technologies being tested in Consol Energy Inc.'s research center in South Park have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while reducing stockpiles of waste coal, experts said Tuesday.

Monessen-based PFBC Environmental Energy Technology Inc. installed a pressurized fluidized bed combustion system recently in Consol's 1-megawatt demonstration power plant at its Research and Development Division off Route 88.

That process, combined with a carbon-capture system by Sargas Inc., has been trapping around 95 percent of the plant's carbon dioxide emissions during tests.

About 100 visitors to the tightly secured center yesterday saw a third demonstration -- what PFBC Environmental calls an algae photobioreactor -- which feeds captured carbon dioxide emissions from the Sargas system to algae growing inside two 20-gallon tubes. Algae can be used as fertilizer or in other products.

"Coal is a big part of our energy history, and we have decades of coal reserves," state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said as he announced $1 million from the state toward a three-year test of the three technologies at Consol's campus.

"It is this kind of technology that is critical to coal's future" because tougher greenhouse gas emissions standards are on the horizon, Hanger said.

About 80 percent of the energy used in the United States is generated by fossil fuels, such as coal, which produce carbon dioxide emissions,

Timing is a key advantage, said Henrick Fleischer, CEO of Sweden-based Sargas, because the pressurized combustion boiler and carbon capture system are designed to fit easily inside older coal-fired power plants and to work with existing equipment.

"Why is this important? The time from here to implementation on a large scale -- where we can retrofit this into America's aging fleet of coal-fired plants, and do away with the emissions problem -- is rather short," he said.

Such systems could be installed in power plants in as little as 18 months, he said.

Pressurized fluid combustion boilers are an advanced method of power generation that is used in Europe and Asia and burns coal more efficiently.

Such boilers can burn waste coal -- typically fine, moist particles -- that come from plants that process coal after it is mined. Typically, coal producers have to put waste coal in landfills or store it in piles or ponds. The boilers also can burn biomass -- dead trees, for instance.

Carbon dioxide captured through the Sargas process can be stored underground, forced into wells to push oil to the surface or used in processes like the algae tests. Algae can be grown over five days and used as fertilizer or in products such as pharmaceuticals.

Ash from the two processes can be safely used in products such as concrete, Fleischer said.

PFBC Environmental displayed plans for a 100-megawatt, "zero-emissions" plant that, with a 50 percent federal funding match, could be built along one of Southwestern Pennsylvania's rivers, said Douglas Farnham, the company's president.

The $450 million plant would use a PFBC boiler and Sargas technologies, but not the algae system, he said.

Kim Leonard can be reached via e-mail or at 412-380-5606.

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