CO2 reduction in a modern coal-fired power plant

The Dutch minister of Economic Affairs is currently working on a plan to possibly phase out all Dutch coal-fired power plants still operational after 2017. The question is whether these plants can still be of value in the (short-/medium-term) energy transition by applying carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass co-firing and/or utilization of waste heat.

This study, commissioned by the Dutch Society for Nature and Environment (Natuur en Milieu), focuses on the following issues:

  • Can CO2 emissions per kWhe output be reduced to the level of a modern Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Plant (CCGT) using biomass co-firing, CCS and/or waste heat utilization?
  • How much emissions reduction can be technically secured by such means? Is it feasible to achieve negative emissions, for example?
  • What subsidies and costs do each of these technical measures involve, both in absolute terms and relative to the degree of emissions reduction?

A CCGT plant was taken as a reference point for CO2 emissions per kWhe output because phasing out coal-fired plants will mean that lost generating capacity would need to be replaced by other power plants, and in recent years these have been mainly modern CCGTs.

A coal-fired plant with the CO2 emissions of a gas-fired plant
Reducing CO2 emissions per kWhe to the level of a modern CCGT can be achieved with three (sets of) measures:

  1. Co-firing 50% biomass
  2. 2.7 Mt CO2/a CCS
  3. Co-firing 30% biomass, 1.1 Mt CO2/a CCS and utilization of 8.6 PJ heat.

The net additional cost of a CCGT is €1.3 bln. (Net Present Value) over the full 25-year lifetime. The net additional costs per package of measures range from €2.3 to 2.8 bln. These will be borne largely by taxpayers via the renewable energy (SDE+) subsidy for co-firing biomass and the investment subsidy for the ROAD CCS demonstration project. The costs arising through lost power sales revenue due to on-site power consumption for CCS are not covered by subsidies and will be borne by producers.

‘Comparison’ webtool
The webtool Comparison of emissions and costs of coal- and gas-fired power stations has been developed to provide information on how the measures impact on emissions and costs. This allows users to adjust the scale of a measure and the period over which it is applied and immediately see the impact on emissions and costs.