Operators of coal-fired power plants are committing billions of dollars in expenditures to reduce the quantities of CO2 per kilowatt of power produced, according to a report by McIlvaine Company. These expenditures are accelerating at double-digit rates, as the near-term market for CO2 capture and enhanced oil recovery is on a significant upswing.

Longer term, McIlvaine says the challenge will be to reduce the capture costs for more widespread use. Europe is moving forward along this line, and Mcilvaine says there is strengthened resolve to reduce CO2 emissions in the two largest emtting countries, the United States and China.

There is a big potential for cost savings, according to McIlvaine, including in the area of improved components. One example is a more efficient CO2 compressor. There is a considerable opportunity to improve CO2 capture processes by use of reagents with improved performance compared to the traditional amines.

The use of biomass and other fuels to replace up to 20 percent of the coal is also attracting capital investment, according to McIlvaine. The co-location of cellulosic ethanol plants at coal sites and other ways to make use of the low-pressure steam generated by coal plants is an area of promise.

The large commitment of research and development funds by many countries is creating a sizable revenue stream independent of the commercial revenues.
Markets for removal of pollutants will be expanded. Existing systems to remove SO2, NOx and particulate from the flue gas do not achieve the low contaminant levels needed for CO2 absorption. As a result, existing plants installing CO2 capture systems will also have to upgrade their existing pollution control equipment.

Compressed CO2 will contain some residual contaminants, which also must be purified, according to McIlvaine. As such, McIlvaine says CO2 capture represents a very sizable capital investment. There are large vessels needed for CO2 separation and regeneration of the absorbent. There is high-pressure piping and process equipment needed for CO2 compression. There is substantial piping required for CO2 transfer and sequestration. Further, the market for instrumentation and controls is substantial, as reflected by the system complexity. Hundreds of valves and pumps are also needed in each process.

McIlvaine predicts most of the large boiler companies are going to be major players in this growing market. However, because of the innovation potential, McIlvaine says there is a good opportunity for the smaller companies.