Can Captured Carbon Save Coal?; June 2009; Scientific American Earth 3.0; by David Biello; 8 Page(s)
Like all big coal-fired power plants, the 1,600-megawatt-capacity Schwarze Pumpe plant in Spremberg, Germany, is undeniably dirty. Yet a small addition to the facility—a tiny boiler that pipes 30 MW worth of steam to local industrial customers—represents a hope for salvation from the global climatechanging consequences of burning fossil fuels.
To heat that boiler, the damp, crumbly brown coal known as lignite—which is even more polluting than the harder black anthracite variety—burns in the presence of pure oxygen, releasing as waste both water vapor and that more notorious greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). By condensing the water in a simple pipe, Vattenfall, the Swedish utility that owns the power plant, captures and isolates nearly 95 percent of the CO2 in a 99.7 percent pure form.