Cool clean coal – just add refrigeration

From the University of Oregon a wacky idea to refrigerate smokestacks.

Cooled coal emissions would clean air and lower health and climate-change costs

EUGENE, Ore. — (Aug. 27, 2012) — Refrigerating coal-plant emissions would reduce levels of dangerous chemicals that pour into the air — including carbon dioxide by more than 90 percent — at a cost of 25 percent efficiency, according to a simple math-driven formula designed by a team of University of Oregon physicists.

The computations for such a system, prepared on an electronic spreadsheet, appeared in Physical Review E, a journal of the American Physical Society.

In a separate, unpublished and preliminary economic analysis, the scientists argue that the “energy penalty” would raise electricity costs by about a quarter but also reap huge societal benefits through subsequent reductions of health-care and climate-change costs associated with burning coal. An energy penalty is the reduction of electricity available for sale to consumers if plants used the same amounts of coal to maintain electrical output while using a cryogenic cleanup.

“The cryogenic treatment of flue gasses from pulverized coal plant is possible, and I think affordable, especially with respect to the total societal costs of burning coal,” said UO physicist Russell J. Donnelly, whose research team was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy for the work detailed in the published journal article.

“In the U.S., we have about 1,400 electric-generating unit powered by coal, operated at about 600 power plants,” Donnelly said. That energy, he added, is sold at about 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to a 2006 Congressional Budget Office estimate. “The estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year.”

In their separate economic analysis, Donnelly and UO research assistant Robert E. Hershberger, also a co-author on the journal paper, estimate that implementing large-scale cryogenic systems into coal-fired plants would reduce overall costs to society by 38 percent through the sharp reduction of associated health-care and climate-change costs. Not in the equation, Donnelly said, are the front-end health-care costs involved in coal extraction through mining.

The cryogenic concept is not new. Donnelly experimented briefly in the 1960s with a paper mill in Springfield, Ore., to successfully remove odor-causing gasses filling the area around the plant using cryogenics. Subsequently the National Science Foundation funded a major study to capture sulfur dioxide emissions — a contributor to acid rain — from coal burning plants. The grant included a detailed engineering study by the Bechtel Corp. of San Francisco.

The Bechtel study showed that the cryogenic process would work very well, but noted that large quantities of carbon dioxide also would be condensed, a consequence that raised no concerns in 1978. “Today we recognize that carbon dioxide emissions are a leading contributor to climate-warming factors attributed to humans,” Donnelly said.

Out came his previously published work on this concept, followed by a rigorous two-year project to recheck and update his thermodynamic calculations and compose “a spreadsheet-accessible” formula for potential use by industry. His earlier work on the cryogenic treatment of coal-plant emissions and natural gas sources had sparked widespread interest internationally.

While the required cooling machinery would be large — potentially the size of a football stadium — the cost for construction or retrofitting likely would not be dramatically larger than present systems that include scrubbers, which would no longer be necessary, Donnelly said. The new journal article does not address construction costs or the disposal of the captured pollutants, the latter of which would be dependent on engineering and perhaps geological considerations.

According to the Physical Review E paper, carbon dioxide would be captured in its solid phase, then warmed and compressed into a gas that could be moved by pipeline at near ambient temperatures to dedicated storage facilities that could be hundreds of miles away. Other chemicals such as sulfur dioxide, some nitrogen oxides and mercury also would be condensed and safely removed from the exhaust stream of the plants.

Last December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new mercury and air toxic standards (MATS), calling for the trapping of 41 percent of sulfur dioxide and 90 percent of mercury emissions. A cryogenic system would do better based on the conservatively produced computations by Donnelly’s team — capturing at least 98 percent of sulfur dioxide, virtually 100 percent of mercury and, in addition, 90 percent of carbon dioxide.

“This forward-thinking formula and the preliminary analysis by these researchers offer some exciting possibilities for the electric power industry that could ultimately benefit human health and the environment,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation. “Scientists at the University of Oregon are continuing to develop new ideas and advanced materials to foster a sustainable future for our planet and its people.”

###

Co-authors with Donnelly and Hershberger on the journal article were: Charles E. Swanson, who earned his doctorate in physics from the UO and served as postdoctoral researcher under Donnelly; John W. Elzey, a former research associate in Donnelly’s Cryogenic Helium Turbulence Lab and now a scientist at GoNano Technologies in Moscow, Idaho; and John Pfotenhauer, who earned his doctorate at the UO and now is in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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michaeljmcfadden

“The estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year.”
These guys were born in the wrong century. They would have been hits back during the debates over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin! They would have come up with variable numbers for dancing jazz vs. ballet, fat angels vs. thin angels,
– MJM

Starve the trees to save the planet[!]

Kurt in Switzerland

Heck, if it costs the same as conventional scrubbers, why not give it a try?
Kurt in Switzerland

michaeljmcfadden

::sigh:: I’d missed this on first reading: “According to the Physical Review E paper, carbon dioxide would be captured in its solid phase, then warmed and compressed into a gas that could be moved by pipeline at near ambient temperatures to dedicated storage facilities that could be hundreds of miles away”
“Dedicated storage facilities” ? Would these be at Yucca Flats? What will they eventually DO with all that deadly carbon dioxide?? Use it to make seltzer water to create highballs to get the angels drunk for their pin dancing??? After all, it’s worse than plutonium you realize. Plutonium has a half-life. We can store it up for a little while and then it becomes safe and we can let it out. But carbon dioxide will retain its deadliness for all of eternity!
SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

Chris G

Not included are the costs or an energy balance for that matter. Don’t want to give out too much information….that must be for the second grant funding.

Matthew Carver

This could never work, the only proven way to reduce emissions and therefore save the planet is by taking money from people or groups we don’t like and giving it to people or groups we do like.

The coal plant pollution – asthma linkage doesn’t stand up. Asthma incidence is highest in countries that have the lowest levels of pollutants from burning coal/oil, and changes in the incidence over the last 40 years are negatively correlated with these pollutants.
The UK has the highest incidence of asthma in the world. This happened during a period when coal consumption fell by more than 60%, pollution reduction measures mandated and domestic burning of coal virtually eliminated.

Andy Dawson

The obvious question begged by this is, is the “25% reduction in efficiency” 25 percentage points, or a proportionate reduction?
If it’s the former, for a fairly typical modern coal plant that’ll be going from 45% or so thermally efficient, to 20%. If it’s the latter it’s going from 45% to 34%.
Either one’s pretty crippling in economic terms.
Also, I’d take the “no more expensive than scrubbers” claim with a pinch of salt. The planned (and now canelled) project for Longannet in Scotland was coming in at approximately £1.5 – 2Bn to deliver decarbonisation sufficient to offset 300 of the plant’s 2000 MW. That was to have used an amine-based cycle, which should be considerably more effective than a cryogenic system

Truthseeker

“Refrigerating coal-plant emissions would reduce levels of dangerous chemicals that pour into the air — including carbon dioxide by more than 90 percent”
Since when does an odourless, colourless and harmless gas that is required to feed all plant life on this planet become a “dangerous chemical”? Stupidity from the start and then it gets worse.

Bloke down the pub

Not in the equation, Donnelly said, are the front-end health-care costs involved in coal extraction through mining.
So as the process is 25% less efficient it will require the mining of more coal that will lead to more health costs for the miners. But that serves them right for being involved in filling up the death trains.

Jimbo

The problem with a lot of many overly zealous environmentalists is that a) they often underestimate mankind’s ability to get ourselves out of a problem and b) underestimate the Earth’s resource / resilience potential. This is why I think they keep getting their doom and gloom predictions wrong including CAGW.

We were wrong on peak oil. There’s enough to fry us all – Guardian 2 July 2012
………………………….
Peak oil hasn’t happened, and it’s unlikely to happen for a very long time.
A report by the oil executive Leonardo Maugeri, published by Harvard University, provides compelling evidence that a new oil boom has begun. The constraints on oil supply over the past 10 years appear to have had more to do with money than geology. The low prices before 2003 had discouraged investors from developing difficult fields. The high prices of the past few years have changed that.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/02/peak-oil-we-we-wrong

dearieme

Physicists playing at being engineers often provide lots of entertainment.

Reblogged this on TaJnB | TheAverageJoeNewsBlogg.

Neville.

Pielke Jr has a story at his blog that looks at the possibility of recycling co2 into liquid methanol.
This is taking place in Iceland where a joint Iceland USA venture is in progress.
http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/recycling-carbon-dioxide-in-iceland.html

Olaf Koenders

Yet more expensive and completely unnecessary hocus-pocus from the.. umm.. “scientific” community. Brought to you by your friendly taxpayer.

Uh-oh. More of the same …
“Today we recognize that carbon dioxide emissions are a leading contributor to climate-warming factors attributed to humans,”
Even if CO2 was a problem, 25% loss of efficiency seems a bit much, along with football fields of gear, pipelines to god-knows where carrying the dreaded CO2 …
Why not go for 15 – 30% CO2 reduction and INCREASED efficiency?
http://joannenova.com.au/2011/08/lower-co2-emissions-by-wait-for-it-building-new-coal-plants/
CSIRO was one of the agencies pioneering the development of efficient plants. Now you never hear of this work.
Sulfur dioxide removal followed fairly rapidly after soot removal way back, so not that hard to do?
As a 5-year old living across the road from a coal-fired gas works, I can confirm that they were removing and stock-piling sulfur in 1953. (“Mum ‘n Dad – wot’s that yellow stuff over there …)
I seem to recall (from WUWT) that:
“The estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year.”
Is a bit exaggerated ?
http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/is-coal-dirty.pdf

Allan MacRae

I know the global warming claims are BS.
I suspect the mortality claims are also BS.
A 25% reduction in energy efficiency is a very high price to pay for BS.
You can get all the BS you want for free – see any global warming alarmist for details.
________________
“The Law of Warmist BS”
You can save yourselves a lot of time, and generally be correct, by simply assuming that EVERY SCARY PREDICTION the global warming alarmists express is FALSE.
“Axiom 1 of the Law of Warmist BS”
Global warming alarmists don’t make predictions anymore – they just make projections.

Climate change costs are built on model output not real time observation.
Cryogenics is a different animal to simple refrigeration. It is far more costly in energy and what is to be done with all that solid CO2, dry ice, which will accumulate and start to warm and turn gaseous unless kept cold, another energy sapping job.
Mad cap idea on top of mad cap idea just because models ”prove” AGW climate change. Complete madness unless this suggestion is part of a grant mining operation which turns it into a complete scam.

H.R.

“The estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year.”
I’d be amazed if anyone could link any of the negative effects listed above directly to any individual and show it was caused by a specific coal plant’s exhaust.
BTW, Asthma is a very serious affliction but I have never been able to understand its steady increase in the U.S. all the while harmful coal and auto emissions – and throw in cigarette smoke exposure – have been steadily decreasing. Someone is barking up the wrong tree.

Jonathan Smith

Take the genuine pollution out but leave the CO2, the plants need it!

DEEBEE

“The estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year.”
=======================================
Before spreadsheeting anything else these numbers should be given a once or twice over and debunked for junk.

DEEBEE

“Today we recognize that carbon dioxide emissions are a leading contributor to climate-warming factors attributed to humans,”
====================
The universal key to peer-review success.

Jeff

Hmmm…..has anyone told the Chinese about this? I imagine their usage of coal-fired plants
(and the associated heat/dust/chemical/whatever output) dwarfs ours….

Mark Nutley

And the CO2 can be sold on to anyone with a greenhouse, pretty cool really.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Bituminous coal, as would be burned in a steam electric plant, runs around 60-80% carbon, figure 70% or 0.7.
Atomic weight of carbon is 12, oxygen is 16, for CO₂ that’s a mass multiplier of (12+16+16)/12 = 3 2/3.
And 90% of the CO₂ is captured, 0.9.
So burn 1 tonne of bituminous, you have 0.7*(3 2/3)*0.9 = 2.3 tonnes of dry ice to haul away. And while bituminous can be hauled in by rail with open coal cars, the dry ice would have to go out in insulated cars, if you don’t mind open air venting of the CO₂ while the dry ice warms up during shipping. If that’s a problem, then refrigerated transport is needed.
Also “bulk density” of bituminous is 833 kg/m³. Density of dry ice is about 1.5 g/cm³ * 1kg/1000g * (100cm/m)³ = 1500 kg/m³. So 1 tonne bituminous to about 2.3*833/1500 = 1.3 times the volume.
So more volume and more weight to haul away, in heavier rail cars or other forms of heavier transport.
Problem is, that would be a safe and relatively cheap way to deal with the captured CO₂, and there are ready markets for dry ice. Instead the plans are to warm it up, convert to highly pressurized gas, and send it out over a dedicated pipeline network to “dedicated storage facilities” somewhere.
There’s enough trouble getting pipelines built for crude oil and oil products, which could contaminate soil and water if they leak. Likewise natural gas pipelines are frowned upon, with leaks resulting in explosions and fires.
But pressurized CO₂ pipelines, where leaks could send silent invisible waves of death flowing downhill over unsuspecting people and animals? Yeah, that’ll sure be popular.
And what “dedicated storage facilities” could they be referring to, other than underground storage?
Also, for such a large commercial refrigeration setup, the refrigerant of choice would be ammonia. So you go from a nice safe steam electric plant, which at worst could have a steam-based explosion that wouldn’t hurt anything off the plant grounds, to needing a full hazmat warning system with alerts in case of an ammonia leak, ready to evacuate anyone nearby as far away as needed.
Ah, progress.

You get doctorates in physics and mechanical engineering for this? They are going to capture (pumping?) a 1500F exhaust and control the inlet air to the boiler, chill it to dry ice, liquify the dry ice and do a fractional distillation, then pump it somewhere for “storage” and this is going to cost no more than a normal scrubber? The benefits are curing dread diseases caused by no-seeum particulate and that isotope of mercury (Hg(coal)) that have not been actually diagnosed as the cause to all these diseases. I think they have a few minor design problems. I thought major universities had more rigorous standards. At least they did when I left 37 years ago. Must be big grant money.

Robert of Ottawa

Bogus costs …
“The estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year.”
Show us the bodies.

keith at hastings uk

Much cheaper to gradually retire the coal plants and move to fracked gas?
As for asthma, lots in the UK but very little coal is burnt. Possibly oversensitive immune responses following excessive cleanliness for kids ie don’t eat dirt anymore, or play outside with minimal supervision, evrything squeaky clean, so their immune systems get nothing to bite on as they grow up?

starzmom

So just one question. Once you cool the flue gas to pull out the CO2 as a solid (that means below freezing) and other pollutants, exactly how do you get the now clean flue gas out of the plant, and where does it go? Presently, at least some plants have to reheat the cleaned flue gas (after it passes through scrubbers and NOX catalysts) to get to warm enough to go up a smokestack. Are we going to emit at ground level with big fans?

Bill Irvine

Once all the world’s stock of Oxygen is stowed safely away in CO2 repositories there will be no more problems. Just do not mention Lake Nyos.

Sasha

“…Refrigerating coal-plant emissions would reduce levels of dangerous chemicals that pour into the air — including carbon dioxide…”
Carbon dioxide is not a “dangerous chemical” – it is a life-giving trace gas, otherwise known as plant food, without which most organisms on this planet would be dead.

RockyRoad

Acolytes that advocate such nonsense should be required to live in a carbon-free environment until they come to their senses. Or if they don’t, the alternative will automatically take care of the “problem”.
My gosh, where has sanity gone? (For the sake of full disclosure, I lived in Oregon once and the lack of logic by many people there was painfully manifest.)

Kevin Kilty

It’s nice they experimented on paper mills, where the odor-causing chemicals are complex molecules that condense at relatively high temperature. But condensing CO2 requires low temperature, and that brings all sorts of irreversibilities into play. Then, we have the age-old problem of where to put the CO2 anyway, which is the crux of the current “solutions”. I guess I’ll have to go read the paper, but until someone figures out what to do with the CO2 none of this matters at all. A 25% penalty on output power is bad enough, what is the additional cost of installed equipment?

Coach Springer

The benefits are immeasurable. Literally, as Joe Biden once said. Not to mention the “rigorous” analysis of the cost to replace scrubbers with freezers.
As for “front-end healthcare costs” of mining coal, the thinking suggests that maybe we shouldn’t have any activities that are risky or”dirty, like making steel, farming, construction, manufacturing, driving, eating lettuce, or mining for and buildng wind turbines. Life is risk, and the risks of coal mining have become and will continue to be more manageable and a relatively miniscule consideration. The risk free ivory tower is a combination of aberration and illusion.
Yes, we have enough coal to afford the loss of 25% efficiency. But why throw 25% away? While making me put a smart meter on my house so they can turn my power down? Pay more for less and restrict access? Putting EPA priorities based on junkscience at the top is thinking at a 90 degree angle to what should be a straight line between production and consumption. We can do better.

PRD

I work for a major coal burning utility. My opinions are my own.
That done …
If this were implemented I to a new plant, the parasitical load of 25% would not be much different than the cumulative parasitical load of precipitators (fly ash removed by static charge) or a bag house (filters for fly ash), mercury controls, scrubbers for H2SO4, ammonia for NOx control, over fire air, and so on and so forth.
We see “stack rain” if the plume gets too wet anyway and is cooling too fast near the plant before the moisture evaporates. That is cured by keeping the stack temp above saturation temperature or internal design to spin out moisture by G forces.
The first issue I see is keeping the condensing surfaces clean enough for the system to work for the 40 yr lifespan of a typical coal plant.
No worries. If November goes to the (D) – Indonesia this won’t even get a chance to be demonstrated.

Lack of logic is a major problem. Take but one small example. Children playing truant because of poorly-linked proximity to plant effluent. For Gawd’s sake, if a kid wants to play hookey,she or he will invent one excuse after another until one works. It’s childish to include data of such uncertainty into a serious paper.
Then, there’s the final crunch argument. Engineers and economists have looked at this liquefaction solution for decades. If it was viable, it would be standard operating procedure by now. I hate these papers that seek special privilege by invoking the unproven god of the greenhouse gas.

JJ

Kurt in Switzerland says:
Heck, if it costs the same as conventional scrubbers, why not give it a try?

It doesn’t cost the same as conventional scrubbers. It is hideously more expensive.
Their ‘cost analysis’ which suggests they would be the same only looked at the cost of the equipment, not the cost of running it. That cost includes raising the fuel cost for the plant by 25% (enormous) and does not include the costs associated with disposing of the CO2 and other flue gasses once they are condensed (enormous X enormous + onerous). And the ‘benefits’ exist mostly in the imaginations of the people pushing this ‘solution’ to a problem that does not exist.
But you took away from this article that the cost would be the same, as was intended. Such is the way of propaganda.

“BTW, Asthma is a very serious affliction but I have never been able to understand its steady increase in the U.S. all the while harmful coal and auto emissions – and throw in cigarette smoke exposure – have been steadily decreasing. Someone is barking up the wrong tree.”
I looked into this a few years back and while there was nothing definitive, the speculation was that the rise in asthma may be related to the energy-efficiency-izing of homes. This has resulted in a much slower air exchange rate and combined with the chemicals used to manufacture carpet, drapes, upholstery…etc, has resulted in a steady increase in indoor air pollution at the same time we are reducing outdoor air pollution.

“health-care and climate-change costs associated with burning coal”
SInce these do not exist with our current stack gases—they are already adequately treated, cooling etc. is a waste of time, energy and money.
“estimated health costs of burning coal in the U.S. are in the range of $150 billion to $380 billion, including 18,000-46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and two million missed work or school days each year”
These are estimates because they are arbitrary attributions made up from thin air. The WHO operates the same way. They cobble up some numbers during a coffee break and them pretend that they are based on some real world data, which they are not.
Our stack gases are fine. To follow the new requirements of the EPA is stupid. Their new regulations are designed to wither make electricity as expensive as their green sources or to shut down coal all together.
And CO2 is plant food. We need ALL that we can get. There is no down side to CO2. Greenhouse gases per se do not exist and certainly do not drive climate. That’s junk science.

dave ward

“The new journal article does not address construction costs or the disposal of the captured pollutants
There’s always a catch…

CO2 capture and storage is one of the DUMBEST ideas ever proposed!

barryjo

“Electronic spreadsheet”. Is that similar to a computer model?

I have been told (personally) by a real climate scientist that people who use spreadsheets to try to analyze climate related problems are a laughingstock “in the trade”. So I am not even going to read this article.
If it were not for similar emails in the Climategate series I would not take him seriously — but there you have it… What can I say?

anarchist hate machine

Yes there is a litany of problems with this idea, but at least these people are not so anti human…at least trying to keep the power going and the lights on.

The plan says,
“carbon dioxide would be captured in its solid phase, then warmed and compressed into a gas that could be moved by pipeline at near ambient temperatures to dedicated storage facilities that could be hundreds of miles away.”
OK, then what? Consider when one changes C (coal) to CO2, one then has more than three times the original coal mass to store forever. One coal power plant typicallys consumes about two 2-mile-long train-loads of coal per day. That would mean the equivalent of about 7 such trains per day hauling the waste away in a pipeline – to then be stored somewhere forever. Now multiply this by the number of coal fired plants in the world – I don’t think so!!

Girma

The AGW house of cards, as shown in the chart below, was built by smoothing all the oscillations in GMST before 1970s and leaving the warming phase of this oscillation since then untouched and calling it man-made.
IPCC Chart => http://bit.ly/OaemsT
As shown in the chart above, the models don’t represent the observed global cooling from 1880s to 1910s and the global warming from 1910s to 1940s. As IPCC models don’t agree with the known past, they have ZERO chance of predicting the unknown future.

Mark

Kurt in Switzerland says:
Heck, if it costs the same as conventional scrubbers, why not give it a try?
A regular scrubber changes the gasses you want to remove into something stable. In the case of acid gasses such as SO2 and CO2 an alkali is used.
What is mostly CO2 “snow” has to be kept cool to prevent it turning back into gas.

wolfman

The healthcare costs, real or imagined, are a major reason for the regulatory nightmare facing coal fired electricity. The reduction from 44% to 35% efficiency in generation would increase costs to perhaps 8 cents per kwhr, vs 20+ cents for wind and solar. The economics would vastly favor the proposed process versus tilting at windmills or using solar for large-scale power generation. I don’t know how good the studies really may be, but it appears to be far more realistic than wasting trillions on current “green” solutions; and the reliability of supply should not be discounted as a major economic issue.
Conversion of power plants to natural gas will undoubtedly continue to be a major factor, but retaining coal as an alternative is a good way to ensure energy supplies and maintain an important industry. We may soon be facing a major electrical shortage, and current policies are going to shutter scores of coal plants. It seems to me that the idea is worth further study to see if the technology and economic assumptions hold up.

bacullen

25% efficiency penalty? raise electricity costs by a quarter? huh? per/kWh, MBTU, month?
Looks like more GI/GO models all the way down.