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Dominion proposes carbon capture project at Wise power plant

Steve Igo • Aug 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ST. PAUL — A carbon capture and storage demonstration project has been proposed for the new coal-fired power plant Dominion is building in Wise County.

The utility on Tuesday said a coalition spearheaded by Virginia Tech’s Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) has applied for federal stimulus funding that could cover up to half of the estimated $580 million cost of the demonstration project at the new Virginia City Hybrid Energy facility under construction in St. Paul.

The $1.8 billion, 585 megawatt power plant is to begin operating in 2012. Construction on the facility began last year. Two weeks ago, a Richmond circuit judge threw out a provision in one of two state air emissions permits granted by the Virginia Air Control Board last year, but Dominion said the provision involving mercury emissions could be eliminated from the permit without jeopardizing the entire project.

The demonstration proposal would essentially pump carbon dioxide emissions into deep un-minable coal seams and underground saline formations. Coalition partners say enhanced production of methane, the primary component of natural gas, could be a side benefit of the project.

The federal grant request was filed last week by the Virginia Tech Foundation on behalf of demonstration project partner Dominion Virginia Power (a subsidiary of Dominion), the Southern States Energy Board, Marshall Miller & Associates and other partners, Dominion officials said Tuesday.

Dominion has touted the new facility in St. Paul as the most advanced coal-burning power plant in the nation, if not the world, designed to be carbon capture compatible with space and retrofit-engineering provided at the facility for carbon capture equipment when available.

The equipment proposed to be added to the power plant with the demonstration project is designed to remove up to 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide each day from the generating station’s emissions, Dominion officials said.

“The Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center was designed from the start to minimize its environmental footprint,” said David A. Christian, CEO of Dominion Generation. “This project will be another important stride in that direction. Beyond that, the project will produce a multimillion-dollar benefit for the economy of Southwest Virginia by creating additional jobs at the station and generating additional state and local tax revenue.”

A total annual infusion of tax revenue for Wise County and the town of St. Paul is projected between $4 million and $6 million. The facility will also support 250 mining jobs when it comes online in 2012.

Demonstration project partners applied for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory under the federal Recovery Act’s Clean Coal Power Initiative.

“This project will be a significant step forward in finding a viable means of controlling carbon emissions from power stations,” said Michael J. Karmis, VCCER director and the Stonie Barker professor of mining engineering at Virginia Tech. “We are fortunate that Virginia has an advanced power plant and suitable injection sites in close proximity.”

Dominion officials said a small-scale test by Virginia Tech of carbon storage potential in the region’s un-minable coal seams indicated “promising” results. The utility said the demonstration project may also tap into enhanced coal bed methane recovery of an estimated 2.5 billion cubic feet.

The project is designed to meet federal goals that include proving carbon capture and storage or beneficial use on a commercial scale, and achieving a minimum 50 percent carbon capture efficiency at the lowest possible cost while working toward higher efficiency levels. The proposed process would utilize solvents known as amines to remove carbon dioxide from the power station’s emissions and target a minimum 90 percent carbon capture efficiency.

Other project members include engineering and geological consultants, coal companies, gas companies, land-holding companies and railroads, Dominion officials said.

Virginia Tech’s VCCER and Marshall Miller & Associates, an engineering firm, would lead the carbon storage aspect of the project.

The demonstration project is subject to federal approval for funding and regulatory approvals. Dominion officials said construction could be completed as early as April 2015, with the injection and monitoring phases to run through April 2021.

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