EUROPE

World’s first CCS coal fired power plant goes online in Germany

Swedish utility Vattenfall, utilizing technology developed by Alstom, has inaugurated the world’s first coal fired power station with carbon capture & storage (CCS) at Schwarze Pumpe, close to Berlin.

The €70m ($99m), power plant is effectively a prototype, but the 30 MW unit will still provide power to 20 000 homes and remove 95 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.

It couples lignite, or brown coal, with oxyfuel technology that burns the coal with pure oxygen, turning the product into nearly pure carbon dioxide ready to be injected into the ground.

The Schwarze Pumpe plant à‚– located in the Lausitz region of eastern Germany à‚– is intended to capture up to 100 000 tonnes (90 719 metric tonnes) of carbon dioxide in the next three years, which will then be injected 3000 m below the surface about 200 km north of the plant instead of being released in to the air.

If it works, Vattenfall will build two conventional coal plants of up to 500 MW in Germany and Denmark by 2015. Lars Josefsson, CEO of Vattenfall, said that by 2020 CCS should be economically viable.

Jury accepts campaigners had ‘lawful excuse’ to damage property

The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than $61 000 worth of damage to a coal fired power station, a UK jury has decided.

Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage. Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a “lawful excuse” to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change.

E.ON wants to build the first new coal fired power station in the UK for 30 years. The plans are firmly backed by Business Secretary John Hutton, and Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks.

German nuclear phase-out opposed

German energy giants RWE, E.ON and Vattenfall are trying to persuade politicians in Berlin to scrap a planned 15-year phase-out of the country’s existing nuclear power stations.

The companies hope the promise of low cost energy will lead to a more favourable attitude towards nuclear, which has received renewed attention as a potentially beneficial ‘low carbon’ energy technology.

But the country’s current ruling coalition is unlikely to touch the phase-out.

IEA urges EU to fully liberalize energy markets

The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its first review of EU energy policy, endorsing controversial Commission plans to break up European energy giants.

IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka expressed concern about some EU member states’ “resistance” to full ownership unbundling, meaning the separation of large energy firms’ production and supply infrastructures.

Brussels first proposed far-reaching plans on electricity and gas market liberalization in September 2007, but watered down the proposal under pressure from France and Germany.

Any alternative to full unbundling is a “second-best solution”, Tanaka said in a thinly veiled reference to the compromise deal brokered by energy ministers in June.

Tanaka also criticised restrictions on trade in renewable energy certificates between EU member states, as this “will unnecessarily increase the cost of achieving the target for renewable energy,” he said.

Proposals designed to achieve a 20 per cent share of renewable energy are currently being debated between the European Council and European Parliament.

Russia to build nuclear plant in Kaliningrad

Russia’s nuclear energy monopoly Rosatom has agreed on the construction of a new power plant in Kaliningrad.

The plant will be constructed about 120 km from the capital of the Baltic Sea exclave between Poland and Lithuania. The plant will have two reactors with a total capacity of 2300 MW by the first stage of construction in 2015.

When plans for the plant were first announced in April, Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko highlighted the export potential of the project.

Kiriyenko said that Rosatom would allow up to 49 per cent of the plant to be held by foreign investors.

CCS may double coal fired generation costs

A parliamentary committee in Germany has concluded that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will raise power generation costs at coal fired power stations 100 per cent and gas fired power stations 50 per cent.

CCS will cost between €26 ($38) and €37 per tonne of CO2. The technology requires more energy so the efficiency rate drops by 15 percentage points but at the same time raises fuel requirements by 40 per cent.

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Belgium: GDF Suez and Electrabel have filed two requests to construct offshore wind farms in the North Sea off Belgium: Blue4Power I and Blue4Power II. If the requests are accepted, the first wind turbines will be operational in 2012.

Bulgaria: The construction of the country’s new nuclear power station, Belene, will start in March 2009 and the first unit is expected to be operational from March 2013. The construction of the second unit will be carried out between March 2010 and the end of 2014.

Estonia: Grid operator Pohivork of the state-owned Eesti Energia power utility, expects electricity trading in the Baltics to start on 1 July 2009.

France: Areva said it will invest €20m ($29.2m) to improve health and environmental monitoring at the Tricastin reactor complex that has been the site of a series of recent safety incidents.

France: From February 2009, a joint coordination centre created by RTE and Elia, the national electricity operators of France and Belgium will develop grid forecasts and support real-time monitoring of electricity flows on the grids of the Central Western European region in preparation for market coupling.

Germany: RWE has laid the foundation stone of the €2bn ($2.85bn), 1600 MW twin-unit hard coal power station at Hamm, North Rhine-Westphalia. The plant will go on-stream by mid-2011 or early 2012.

Romania: Areva and Electromontaj Bucharest signed a €33.5m ($47.8m) deal with state-owned power grid company Transelectrica, to modernize a power station located near Lacu Sarat.

UK: Westinghouse has signed agreements with BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Doosan Babcock to collaborate on building AP1000 nuclear power plants.

UK: German energy group E.ON, which wants to build nuclear power stations in Britain, has signed an agreement enabling it to connect with the British national power network. The deal, signed with the National Grid, calls for the eventual connection of a new nuclear reactor that could be built next to a reactor already in service in Oldbury, near Gloucester.

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