Monday, December 12, 2005

Energy Vision

The much-anticipated Ontario Power Authority (OPA)'s recommendations for how the province will meet its energy needs in the future is finally out. Since this is the holiday season, the Liberals have followed the tradition of releasing controversial reports to the paying public close to Christmas.

With 25,000 MW of the province's peak capacity of 32,000 MW targeted for phase-out, burn-out or shut-down over the next 20 to 30 years, the report is recommending a $ 35 billion investment in new nuclear power plants. Depending on your perspective, this news is either naughty or nice.

Municipal officials in the Clarington area (home of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station) will no doubt consider the expansion of nuclear a nice bit of holiday cheer. Clarington Council is still smarting after losing its bid to host the controversial $ 18 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project. To help ensure that it doesn't miss the nuclear gravy train this time, Clarington Council formally announced last month that the municipality ~ or at least council members ~ would be a willing host to Darlington B, two new 700 MW reactors adjacent to the existing plant. Hot on their heels, Durham Regional Council passed a unanimous resolution also welcoming a new Darlington plant.

For those who would prefer to not fall back into a system reliant on nuclear power, the news is both naughty and unnecessary. According to a new report released last week by the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), by failing to aggressively work toward improving energy efficiency in the province, the government is placing Ontario's environment and economic prosperity at serious risk.

"Towards a Sustainable Electricity System for Ontario? A Provincial Progress Report", evaluates Ontario's progress in three key areas ~ energy efficiency, renewable energy supply and replacing coal-fire generation ~ and finds the province's efforts wanting. Despite the appointment of Ontario's first Chief Energy Conservation Officer, one only needs to follow the money to see that the province doesn't have the courage of its so-called conservation convictions.

"The province has committed $10.5 billion on electricity supply compared to approximately $163 million on conservation and demand management ~ a ratio of commitments of 64:1," said Mark Winfield, Ph.D., Director Environmental Governance for The Pembina Institute. Despite all the hype about conservation, clearly the province is paying lip service to the idea of fully integrating conservation as a reliable part of its energy mix.

"Other jurisdictions have demonstrated major reductions in demand as a result of aggressive efficiency programs," said Winfield. "California and Vermont have stopped load growth by investing in conservation programs." By some estimates, these programs have been so successful that they may soon start replacing existing generation.

These programs worked because they were legislated, not because politicians said that conservation was a good idea. In Vermont's case, Efficiency Vermont was mandated by government order, much like Ontario will mandate what our future energy mix will be.

According to Pembina and CELA, that mix doesn't have to include coal or nuclear. In their joint 2004 report, "Power for the Future", Pembina/CELA estimated that aggressive conservation efforts combined with rapid but feasible investments in renewable energy would make the phase-out of coal and nuclear feasible. These are very smart people who have dedicated their professional lives to sustainable, innovative solutions. So why isn't our government paying attention?

Sadly, this would take some vision and a whole lot of courage, because being a visionary isn't necessarily politically expedient. What is expedient is the same old solutions which will pretty much leave us where we already are: seriously in debt and heavily invested in large scale, centralized generation, forced into a never ending cycle of selling electricity ~ rather than the services that electricity provides ~ so we can to pay off that large scale debt.

Courage and vision are qualities that seem destined to be mutually exclusive of being elected to make these decisions. We have great examples of how we can create a sustainable energy future. It's up to us to demand that our leaders do what's right, rather than what's politically expedient.


The Pembina Institute
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Efficiency Vermont
Ontario Power Authority


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surprisingly Ontario Power Authority has participated in other energy alternatives such as Zeca:

Process Overview


ZECA Corporation is the successor to The Zero Emission Coal Alliance which was founded in 1999 by The Coal Association of Canada, Los Alamos National Laboratory and 16 other organizations which included major U.S., Canadian and international private and public organizations with interests in coal mining, electrical power generation, mining and power generation equipment manufacturing as well as the governance of those sectors (i.e. Natural Resources Canada and Alberta).

After Nexant, a Bechtel Company, had determined that the key ZEC Technology* is technically sound and potentially competitive, the ZECA Alliance passed its mantle on to ZECA Corporation (ZECA) late last year. As the ZECA Alliance's Successor, ZECA has the exclusive option to licence the technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory. ZECA is continuing to develop this technology as the cornerstone of its goal of becoming the world's premier supplier of Zero-Emission Coal and Carbon technologies (ZEC Technology*).


The original ZECA concept is a process that uses well-known chemical reactions and cutting edge energy technologies in a novel, highly integrated design that maximizes hydrogen, steam and heat recycling. It is projected that it will extract 70% of the energy from coal (as compared to 35% for conventional coal-fired utilities); it will do so at about the same cost as a modern, 'clean coal' unit; and with no emissions to the air - all while producing half as much CO2 in a high pressure stream ready for permanent storage either in underground formations (enhanced coal bed methane and oil production) or as a benign, white mineral carbonate that can be safely stored for millions of years.

A unique and important aspect of the ZECA process is that it produces hydrogen and a 'pure' stream of CO2 from any carbon fuel (coal, coke, bitumen, heavy oil or even biomass, etc.) and water. This leads to a wide range of possibilities from using coal to fuel high efficiency generation, bitumen or coke and (tailings) water to manufacture hydrogen for upgrading at oil sands plants, producing CO/H2 mixtures for Fisher-Tropsch synthesis or producing hydrogen directly from biomass while preparing the CO2 for safe, permanent sequestration.

Zero-Emission Coal and Carbon Technology (ZEC Technology*)

The ZEC Technology* begins with the simple fact that carbon (coal) and hydrogen react to form methane or synthetic natural gas. This gas is then passed, with steam, over a bed of hot lime or calcium oxide (CaO) in the reformer to produce twice as much hydrogen as was present at the beginning (half of the hydrogen comes from the water, half from the gas).

The lime absorbs the carbon from the gas and the oxygen in the water to form limestone (CaCO3).

The original quantity of hydrogen is constantly recycled to gasify the coal and the remainder is fed to a high temperature, solid oxide fuel cell to produce electricity. The hydrogen reacts with oxygen that has been filtered from the air by the fuel cell and it forms water (steam) which is recycled to the gasifier and the reformer.

The waste heat from the fuel cell is recycled to the used reformer bed where it converts the limestone back into hot lime (calcium oxide) and a pure stream of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is ready to be safely stored underground or as a mineral carbonate.

The ZEC Technology* itself does not specifically include a particular method for CO2 disposal. However, to ensure that a fail-safe method is available, ZECA is cooperating with researchers who are investigating mineral carbonation. This process would react the CO2 from any process with serpentinite (the rock that most people associate with high quality, dark green soapstone carvings). This rock is very rich in magnesium oxide (40%+/-) which reacts naturally with CO2 to form magnesium carbonate (MgCO3), a benign, white powder which does not decompose naturally and can therefore be safely stored for millions of years.

Hydrogasification and Reforming

The first part of the process is important because it uses any carbon fuel such as coal or bitumen (or heavy oil) or even biomass and combines it with hydrogen to produce additional hydrogen and a pure stream of CO2 which can then be sequestered by whichever means is appropriate. The product hydrogen can be used to upgrade coal, bitumen or heavy oil to synthetic crude oil or other high purity specialty fuels providing that about 1/3 of the product hydrogen is reserved to calcine the limestone back into hot lime or that another source of heat such as a solar furnace is available to supply that heat. Since calcium oxide can be stored relatively easily, it can be used to store any available and useful heat that might otherwise be wasted. Even without using the ZEC Technology* to make electricity, ZEC Technology* can provide significant benefits to oil sands operations that currently purchase natural gas to make hydrogen. The ZEC Technology* would allow them to make hydrogen from their own waste coke or ashphaltenes or even bitumen itself and tailings water while simultaneously producing a pure stream of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Coal Compatible Fuel Cell

The ZEC Technology* for electrical generation ultimately requires an extremely robust fuel cell that does not yet exist. It should be highly resistant to sulphur compounds, mercury, nitrogen compounds, other trace elements and even a modest amount of particulate. Without such a fuel, hot gas cleaning will be a major challenge. Fortunately there are a number of initial applications that can be designed to use other energy conversion technologies such as hydrogen turbines (which still require some significant gas cleaning) to allow the necessary time for this development. The important aspects of this energy conversion module of the process are that steam be available for the reformer and that a source of independent or recycled heat be provided to convert the calcium carbonate back into lime. An initial evaluation of the use of hydrogen turbines by Nexant suggested that the overall efficiency of the process would drop from 70% to about 55%. It is expected that at least 8 years would be required to develop the Coal Compatible Fuel Cell and that such development would have to be closely integrated with the advances in hot gas cleaning to arrive at the optimum solution. As such, the ZEC Technology* may best be launched in other modes such as the H2 turbine construct or as a source of hydrogen for upgrading.

Mineral Carbonation

In nature, carbon dioxide is constantly reacting with magnesium and calcium silicate rocks to form mineral carbonates. This is nature's way of storing CO2. In nature, this reaction takes hundreds of thousands of years to go to completion - far too long to provide immediate storage. In the last few years a U.S. DOE led consortium (NETL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Albany (Oregon) Research Center and Arizona State University) has been working on this process to see if they can speed up the kinetics of the reactions. To date they have had some extraordinary successes. Laboratory reactions in aqueous environments catalyzed by only simple substances like table salt and baking soda have been completed in as little as 30 minutes with good conversion rates. More work needs to be done on overcoming the heat pre-treatment of the serpentinite that everyone agrees is the ideal material to use if this problem can be solved. To assist with the development of this technology, ZECA is proposing a joint effort with the U.S. DOE to investigate the potential for these reactions to work in a 'dry' environment.

The advantage of mineral carbonation over other forms of CO2 sequestration is that it does not require any monitoring as there is no possibility of leakage. Mineral carbonates are as safe as a limestone mountain!

The Way Forward

The development of the ZEC Technology* will require a major effort over the next two years to do the necessary research to allow a 5 to 10 MW or equivalent scale (for hydrogen production) pilot plant to be designed. Following that, approximately 3 years will be needed to build and operate the pilot plant before a full-scale demonstration plant can be built.

Significant challenges are to determine the design characteristics of the gasifier (Catalysts, if any, size, residence time, etc.), the development of catalysts for the CaO reformer, heat exchange technologies, and the best method for hydrogen utilization (fuel cell, hydrogen turbine, upgrading, etc.).

The Coal Compatible Fuel Cell must be a separate development but that work must also be totally integrated to ensure that, at the end of the day, this process will meet the objectives of ZECA's founders and be applicable to the coal industry. The basic technical concepts are now available for all hydrocarbon fuel sectors. How the technology develops will be determined by the support it gets; the hydrogen production component need not await the development of the fuel cell if other uses are available first.

ZEC Technology* provides an opportunity for the coal, bitumen and heavy oil sectors of the energy industry to get the emissions monkey off their backs. These industries can avoid the piecemeal, incremental fight over emissions reductions and become the foundation for an ultra-clean hydrogen economy.

Development Schedule and more information c/w graphics

Issued on: December 6, 2005
FutureGen Project Launched

Government, Industry Agree to Build Zero-Emissions Power Plant of the Future

Washington, DC - Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today announced that the Department of Energy has signed an agreement with the FutureGen Industrial Alliance to build FutureGen, a prototype of the fossil-fueled power plant of the future. The nearly $1 billion government-industry project will produce electricity and hydrogen with zero emissions, including carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

The initiative is a response to President Bush's directive to develop a hydrogen economy by drawing upon the best scientific research to address the issue of global climate change. Today’s announcement marks the official "kick-off" for the FutureGen Project. Over the next year, site selection, design activities, and environmental analyses will lay the groundwork for final project design, construction, and operation.

"This agreement places the Alliance members among the world’s most responsible and forward-thinking coal and energy companies," Secretary Bodman said, as he praised them for their initiative. "The prototype plant will be a stepping-stone toward future coal-fired power plants that not only will produce hydrogen and electricity with zero-emissions, but will operate with some of the most advanced, cutting-edge technologies. "

The FutureGen Industrial Alliance will contribute $250 million to the project. Current Alliance members are: American Electric Power (Columbus, Ohio); BHP Billiton (Melbourne, Australia); CONSOL Energy Inc. (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Foundation Coal (Linthicum Heights, Md.); China Huaneng Group (Beijing, China); Kennecott Energy (Gillette, Wyo.); Peabody Energy (St. Louis, Mo.); and Southern Company (Atlanta, Ga.).

The Industrial Alliance plans to issue a site selection solicitation in early 2006, to develop a short list of the most qualified candidate sites by mid-2006, and to make a final site selection in mid to late 2007.

FutureGen will initiate operations around 2012 and virtually every aspect of the prototype plant will be based on cutting-edge technology. The project will integrate testing of emerging energy supply and utilization technologies as well as advanced carbon capture and sequestration systems. Technologies planned for testing at the prototype plant could provide future electric power generation with zero-emissions that is only 10 percent higher in cost than today's electricity.

At the heart of the project will be coal gasification technologies that can eliminate common air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and convert them to useable by-products such as fertilizers and soil enhancers. Mercury pollutants will also be removed.

These technologies also will turn coal into a highly enriched hydrogen gas, which can be burned much more cleanly than directly burning the coal itself. Alternatively, the hydrogen can be used in a fuel cell to produce ultra-clean electricity, or fed to a refinery to help upgrade petroleum products. In the future, the plant could also become a model hydrogen-production facility for President Bush’s initiative to develop a new fleet of hydrogen-powered cars and trucks.

Carbon sequestration will be one of several key features that will set the prototype plant apart from other electric power plant projects. FutureGen will be designed to capture carbon dioxide and sequester it in deep underground geologic formations. No other power plant in the world has been built with this capability. The initial goal will be to capture 90 percent of the plant’s carbon dioxide, but capture of nearly 100 percent may be possible with advanced technologies.

Once captured, the carbon dioxide will be injected as a compressed liquid-like fluid deep underground, perhaps into saline reservoirs thousands of feet below the surface of much of the United States. It could even be injected into oil or gas reservoirs, or into unmineable coal seams, to enhance petroleum or coalbed methane recovery. Once trapped in these formations, the greenhouse gas would be permanently isolated from the atmosphere. The project will include an intensive measurement and monitoring effort to verify the efficacy of carbon sequestration.

The FutureGen plant will be sized to generate approximately 275 megawatts of electricity, which is roughly equivalent to a medium-size coal-fired power plant and sufficient to supply electricity to approximately 275,000 average U.S. households.

The ultimate goal for the FutureGen plant is to show how new technology can eliminate environmental concerns over the future use of coal and allow the nation to tap the full potential of its coal reserves. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the United States with supplies projected to last 250 years or more and is the workhorse of the United States’ electric power sector, supplying more than half of the electricity the nation consumes.

FutureGen's production of hydrogen will support the President's call to create a hydrogen economy and provide fuel for pollution-free vehicles, and the use of coal will help ensure America's energy security by developing technologies that utilize a plentiful domestic resource.

The FutureGen Initiative was initially announced by President Bush in February 2003. The project is being funded through the Department’s Office of Fossil Energy and will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
- End of Techline -

For more information, contact:

* Drew Malcomb, DOE Office of Public Affairs, 202-586-5806 ... original

Issued on: August 11, 2005
Coal-Based Fuel Cells: A Giant Leap for Fuel Cell Technology

New Program to Develop Multi-Megawatt Fuel Cell Systems

Washington, D.C. — The Department of Energy today announced the first two projects selected under the Department’s new Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems program. The projects will be conducted by two research teams—one led by General Electric Hybrid Power Generations Systems and the other by Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation—and they share the same goal: to develop the fuel cell technology required for central power stations to produce affordable, efficient, environmentally-friendly electricity from coal.

The new program leverages knowledge gained in DOE’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA), extending coal-based solid oxide fuel cell technology to large central power generation stations.

The benefits of developing coal-based fuel cell systems are significant. Coal is a cost-effective energy source and, with approximately 250 years of reserves, it is America’s most abundant fossil fuel. Our improved ability to use this domestic energy supply reduces our dependence on foreign markets and increases our energy security. In addition, fuel cells are one of the most attractive power generating technologies for the future. Fuel cell systems do not rely upon combustion; consequently, they produce nearly none of the air pollutants associated with conventional power systems.

Given these advantages, advances made under the Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems program are expected to become key enabling technologies for FutureGen, a DOE demonstration of advanced power systems that emit near-zero emissions, have double today’s electric generating efficiency, co-produce hydrogen, and capture and sequester carbon dioxide.

The two teams will research, develop, and demonstrate fuel cell technologies that can support power generation systems larger than 100 megawatts capacity. Key system requirements to be achieved include:

At least 50 percent overall efficiency in converting the energy contained in coal to grid electrical power.
Capture of 90 percent or more of the system’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Cost of $400 per kilowatt, exclusive of the coal gasification unit and carbon dioxide separation subsystems.

Projects will be conducted in three phases. During Phase I, the teams will focus on the design, cost analysis, fabrication, and testing of large-scale fuel cell stacks fueled by coal synthesis gas. Central to the Phase I effort will be the resolution of technical barriers with respect to the manufacture and performance of larger-sized fuel cells.

Phases II and III will focus on the fabrication of aggregate fuel cell systems and will culminate in proof-of-concept systems to be field tested for a minimum of 25,000 hours. These systems will be sited at existing or planned coal gasification units, potentially at DOE’s FutureGen facility.

The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems program and projects. The new projects are described below:

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Coal Based Power Systems—General Electric Hybrid Power Generation Systems will partner with GE Energy, GE Global Research, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the University of South Carolina to develop an integrated gasification fuel cell system that merges GE’s SECA-based solid oxide fuel cell, gas turbine, and coal gasification technologies. The system design incorporates a fuel cell/turbine hybrid as the main power generation unit. (DOE Phase I award: $7.5 million; Phase I duration: 36 months)
Coal Gas Fueled Solid Oxide Fuel Cell/Gas Turbine Hybrid Power System with CO2 Separation—Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation is partnering with ConocoPhillips and Air Products and Chemicals Inc. to develop large-scale fuel cell systems based on their in-house gas turbine and SECA-modified tubular solid oxide fuel cell technology. ConocoPhillips will provide gasifier expertise, while the baseline design will incorporate an ion transport membrane (ITM) oxygen separation unit from Air Products. (DOE Phase I award: $7.5 million; Phase I duration: 36 months)

- End of Techline -

For more information, contact:

* David Anna, DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory, 412-386-4646,

December 12, 2005 11:26 PM  
Blogger Yoga Rani said...

Suzanne, Bang on! There is no political will in Ontario to be more efficientwith our energy. Keep on, keeping on! Eventually, they will get it!


December 13, 2005 8:09 PM  
Blogger Yoga Rani said...

Bang On Suzanne,

There is no political will to drop the nuclear idea in Ontario, despite the fact that people want cleaner, safer power sources.

Keep on keeping on, eventually they will have to listen to science, reason, environmental promises, and natural laws!

December 13, 2005 8:12 PM  

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