Carbon Capture and Storage and Aberthaw power station

You may have heard politicians, energy companies and those with vested interests in coal mining ( mine operators and trade unions) talk about “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) as though it actually exists. It does not exist in any viable form, and you should not be fooled when you hear politicans and power generators talk about CCS. It is a concept, not a consummation, devoutly to be wished.

When coal is burnt to produce heat to heat water to produce steam to drive turbines to generate electricity, it has several noxious by- products. First and foremost is the dreaded carbon dioxide, necessary to life, but right now we are having too much of the stuff and it is making the planet warmer.

Other by-products do not have any value – mercury in the air, sulphur dioxide which makes the rain acidic and other stuff which is equally evil. Not all coal or every burning produces all the poisons, but every coal burning produces around twice as much carbon dioxide than burning natural gas to produce the same electricity.

Now, those who talk about CCS as though it existed or was actually viable and useful are misleading you. The proposed coal burning power station at Kingsnorth is a case in point. We are told that the power plant, like all new coal burning power powers will be “CCS ready”.

I have no idea as to what constitutes this requirement; neither does anyone else because no one knows how to capture any significant amount of carbon dioxide from coal burning in a way that is viable.

You can capture very small amounts of carbon dioxide but it is expensive in that in doing so you reduce the energy coal burning produces and have to burn more coal than usual to get the same amount of energy.

It is a similar conundrum that was found when mixing corn ethanol with fossil fuel diesel – you get lower mileage consumption. The government in the United Kingdom, when I last wrote about this subject, devised a competition, (yes folks a competition) which would provide the winner (it will be one of the energy companies) with some taxpayers money to research the CCS technology which has to be invented so that Kingsnorth will be CCS ready. That says a lot about our society, does not it?

In fairness there are some CCS experiments being undertaken. Aberthaw Power Station is in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales, an area of outstanding beauty. It burns coal and can also burn biomass. Much of the coal comes from the Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, which is a long way from Aberthaw by road.

The power company RWE npower has recently announced, with great élan the investment of £8.5 million in a process to treble the amount of electricity that will be subject to its experimental carbon capture and storage from 1MW to 3MW. Aberthaw’s generating capacity is, wait for it 1,455 MW. Aberthaw will not be able to start the expansion until the planning authority has given permission for the building works that are necessary.

CCS may at best be able to reduce the carbon emissions from coal burning by 20%. That will leave coal producing nearly double the emissions of natural gas, instead of more than double the emissions of natural gas. If we are to reduce green hosue emissions from electricity we have to face the reality of this, and close all coal burning power stations.

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