Peabody Energy has urged the US government not to mandate carbon capture and storage (CCS) for new power plants.

The world’s largest private coal company was reacting to proposals emerging from the US aimed at further restricting coal plant emissions. The US Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal requiring new coal plants to limit emissions to levels that can only be met through carbon capture and storage. The moves are a key part of Barack Obama’s climate change plan, announced in June.

 “Carbon capture and storage technology is simply not commercially available and not able to satisfy America’s need for low-cost electricity,” said Peabody.

 “This type of experiment has been tried — and failed — in Australia, the European Union and California, and it has led to soaring power prices, exported jobs and slumping economies.”

While Peabody did refer to CCS as “promising technology” they warned that the rule would have an adverse effect on consumer power bills.

Meanwhile in Australia the newly elected government plans to stop funding a $1.7 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program, which had already been reduced by $500 million in the May budget.

Meanwhile further evidence that the technology is in retreat came from Norway who abandoned plans to build a full-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant at the Mongstad refinery, curtailing a $1bn project known as the country’s “moon landing”.

The Norwegian ministry for petroleum and energy confirmed late last week the plans would be halted and the government will instead look to develop “at least one full-scale CCS project … by 2020” in another location.

The setbacks come despite recommendations by the International Energy Agency that the technology is a key option to reduce global carbon emissions.

The IEA had however also advised that the pace of development remained uncertain and that even at a carbon price of $50 a tonne, it would be more expensive than gas, nuclear and wind power.

Despite some of the negative content about the technology this week Jeff Chapman of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association told Power Engineering International that once some of the first time projects are operational a significant step forward can take place.

Jeff Chapman  “The fact is that CCS is a very cost-effective way of avoiding emissions and it’s difficult because the first projects are very expensive, and this would apply to Mongstad too. The projects are not that big to begin with but have a lot of first of the kind costs which don’t then benefit from large economies of scale.”

 “In the UK we are planning to build projects of 400-500 MW in size. You don’t normally build power stations of that size- usually they are 1000- 1500 MW and you get a greater economy of scale from that. That particularly applies because first projects have to lay down new infrastructure such as pipelines and stores.”

 Chapman cites the example of the White Rose Project in Yorkshire, England. Right now the National Grid has invested greatly in the project which will connect Drax to Bridlington and the North Sea, where 2 million tonnes of CO2 will initially be stored. Once pipelines and storage facilities are completed other projects can benefit.

 “Any project that comes along later can not only share in the infrastructure but also doesn’t have the cost and commercial risk associated with the development of a new storage facility.”

 Mr Chapman made the same points in his role as Chairman of the UK CCS Cost Reduction Task Force, which reported to the UK energy minister in May. In that report he also reinforced the positives for the government in ensuring investment.

“If we can get enough CO2 delivered into the middle of the North Sea then oil companies will use it for enhanced oil recovery, then we have a real win-win situation. But the initial hurdle associated with the big costs of the first projects must be overcome. Once you’ve broken through that – it’s not very different to offshore wind but the projects are just bigger.”

In common with Brad Page of the CCS Institute, Chapman preaches the need for parity with other renewable technologies.

“If we in CCS got parity with offshore wind, there would be CCS plants all over the place.”

For more carbon capture and storage news