Backers cut ribbon on CO2 test project at Kentucky coal plant

Kentucky’s first megawatt-scale carbon capture pilot unit at an operating power plant will soon be located at Kentucky Utilities‘ coal-fired E.W. Brown Generating Station.

The project was announced on July 21 during a news conference and ribbon cutting on the grounds of the facility with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters, LG&E and KU Energy Chairman, CEO and President Victor Staffieri, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, and other dignitaries in attendance.

The $19.5m project with the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research is made possible through a $14.5m competitive financial assistance award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and cost-share funding from UK, the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, the Carbon Management Research Group (CMRG) utility members, and project team members including the Electric Power Research Institute and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems America. 

This “catch and release” style pilot system will demonstrate improvements in the integration of carbon capture technology at an existing power plant, produce key discoveries with the goal of developing a safer, more efficient process, and test the feasibility of ideas and technologies for the integration of commercial-scale carbon capture systems, said the university in a July 21 statement.

Construction of the 2-MW thermal post-combustion CO2 capture pilot system is expected to be complete this fall, followed by the testing period. Testing is due to be finished in mid 2016.

“This project is the next phase in a partnership between LG&E and KU and the University of Kentucky that began back in 2006, when our company committed $1.5 million to CAER for research into the reduction of greenhouse gases,” said Staffieri. “In 2006, there were no regulations on carbon emissions, but we recognized the importance of this research for our company and our Commonwealth. That’s why we continue to invest in these types of projects, which explore ways to make a difference for both our industry and future generations.”

“Generation of energy, affordable energy and the jobs energy provides all play a key role in the health of Kentucky’s economy,” Beshear said. “The project we’re celebrating today and the partnership that made it possible show our state and its utilities are working together to maintain our livelihood and find solutions to the challenges posed by ever-increasing carbon constraints.”

“Coal has been the lifeblood of Kentucky and the most affordable fuel for energy generation for some time, but economic and regulatory pressure is changing the role coal has played in the energy landscape of Kentucky,” said Eli Capilouto, University of Kentucky President. “As we look toward the future of energy generation, the research results from the carbon capture projects like this provide our electric utilities with valuable information to determine whether these technologies are feasible for commercial-scale operations and can allow coal to be a viable energy source moving forward.”

“This project reinforces coal as part of the president’s ‘All of the Above’ strategy, and underscores the viability of coal as part of America’s low-carbon economy,” said Julio Friedmann, deputy assistant secretary for clean coal and carbon management at DOE.

Tested will be solvent-based CO2 capture

Said the DOE website about this project: “The University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research (UK CAER) Team will develop a two megawatt thermal (0.7 megawatt electrical [MWe] equivalent) slipstream post-combustion CO2 capture system for a coal-fired power plant using novel concepts coupled with Hitachi’s proprietary solvent (H3-1). An innovative heat integration method will utilize waste heat from the carbon capture system while improving steam turbine efficiency. A two-stage stripping concept will be combined with the heat integration method to increase solvent capacity and capture rate in the CO2 scrubber. The advanced solvent utilized by the process has several advantages over conventional amine solvents such as 30 weight percent (wt%) monoethanolamine (MEA), including exhibiting lower heat of regeneration, higher capacity, and less solvent degradation. Previous laboratory and pilot-scale tests of the H3-1 solvent, as well as results from an initial techno-economic analysis of the capture process, illustrate the potential of this CO2 capture system.”

The website added: “The design, start-up, and commissioning of the test facility will be performed with a generic 30 wt% MEA solvent to obtain baseline data for comparison with other proprietary solvents to be tested in the program. Testing will be conducted on two proprietary solvents: Hitachi’s advance amine solvent (H3-1), and a proprietary solvent developed by the CAER as an alternative solvent. Parametric testing and longterm verification campaigns will be conducted for each of the solvents. Corrosion evaluation and solvent degradation studies will be conducted concurrently with the verification runs. The potential heat integration, solvent and water management, and CO2 capture system stability and operability will be the main focal points. Process modeling will be performed to optimize the post-combustion CO2 capture system, determine power plant integration strategies, and conduct sensitivity analyses. The results of the modeling studies will be used to complete an economic analysis of the process to determine its capital and operating costs as well as to estimate the cost of electricity (COE) as compared to the reference MEA process.”

Located on the banks of Lake Herrington near Harrodsburg, Ky., E.W. Brown has three coal-fired generators that can produce a total of about 749 MW. An average of 1.5 million tons of coal is burned annually at the E.W. Brown Station.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.