A pilot project to capture and store carbon dioxide has begun at a power plant in Alabama. The effort at the Barry Electric Generating Station began in full at the end of last month.
The plant is big, and the carbon-capture apparatus is small, so only about one percent of the flue gas is actually being captured. But the fact that the carbon dioxide is also being transported about 12 miles through a pipeline and sequestered deep in the earth is an important step for the technology.
Nick Irvin is the program manager for Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Technology Development for Southern Company, which owns the Barry Plant. He says the project is significant because it involves both capturing and storage.
“We are operating the full chain of the technology,” he said. “In many, many cases you’ll see people running a CO2 capture technology test or running a CO2 injection test, but in trying to tie all of them together we get the best feel for how the technology is going to behave in a commercial way, so we can really understand the impact to our business.”
Irvin says the company wants to at least have the option of burning coal in the future, and believes it’s important to invest in the research and development.
“We believe in an ‘all the arrows in the quiver’ strategy, where we want to have a very diverse portfolio of energy supply options,” he said. “And really this technology is needed to support coal being one of those supply options.”
This is one of the only carbon capture and sequestration projects to be currently in operation at a power plant. Another pilot project at a plant operated by American Electric Power in West Virginia was shut down last year. At the time, the company said the technology wasn’t economically viable without some kind of price on carbon.