Coal Tattoo

AEP seeks federal funds to expand W.Va. CCS project

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With a carbon capture test at its Mountainer Power Plant in New Haven, W.Va., just weeks away from going operational, American Electric Power announced this afternoon that it plans to seek federal funding to expand the project.

The initiative would increase the carbon capture and storage (CCS) ability of the plant from the current 20-megawatt project to 230 megawatts. That’s still less than 20 percent of the 1,300-megawatt plant — and the effort would not be operational until at least 2015.

AEP hopes to win $334 million from the U.S. Department of Energy‘s latest round of “Clean Coal” money, or enough to fund half of the costs of installing its favored chilled ammonia carbon capture process.

That’s right — $334 million is half the cost of a project to capture less than 20 percent of the plant’s total greenhouse emissions.

As I’ve written before, AEP has begun to talk pretty straight to lawmakers and the public about the huge challenges facing the coal industry and coal-fired utilities in trying to perfect and deploy CCS.  And there’s little question now that CCS amounts to the coal industry’s elusive holy grail, as The Washington Post recently put it.

But AEP President Michael G. Morris had this to say about his company’s efforts and its move to seek more federal funding:

Commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential component in a successful climate strategy for this nation, which relies on coal-fired generation for about half of its electricity supply. Coal is a low-cost, abundant domestic fuel source, but its use is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

First-movers like AEP who push the commercialization of technology will face higher costs than those who wait for others to act, costs that would be borne by our customers. But without efforts like ours, the availability of solutions for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants will be needlessly delayed. It’s an appropriate use of federal stimulus funds to spur the advancement of this technology and to offset the financial penalty facing our customers and our company for taking the initiative.

The current AEP project, which hopes to capture carbon dioxide emissions equal to just 1.5 percent of the entire Mountaineer Plant’s output, received no federal money.