Not-really-clean-coal for Victoria.
Just two days before the Garnaut report on climate change is handed down, the Victorian Government has given the go-ahead to a new brown-coal power station in Latrobe Valley.
Environmental campaigners said it was “complete madness” to approve the $750 million plant, but the Government said the station would use new technology that would slash greenhouse gas emissions.
The project is a joint venture between consortium HRL and Chinese power giant Harbin Power, and will receive funding of $100 million from the Federal Government and $50 million from the Victorian Government.
“The $750 million HRL plant will use technology which has been developed right here in Victoria and is part of the new generation of clean coal power stations designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions,” said the Energy Minister, Peter Batchelor.
“The project uses a process called integrated drying gasification combined cycle (IDGCC) which can reduce emissions of CO2 from brown coal-fired power generation by 30 per cent and reduce water consumption by 50 per cent, compared to current best practice for brown coal power generation in the Latrobe Valley.”
Typical generators burning Victorian brown coal generate 1175 g CO2e per kWh of electricity generated.
The IDGCC plant will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% – so, that’s about 823 g CO2e/kWh.
For a good supercritical black coal burning plant you’ve got about 863 gCO2e, and 751 g for natural gas, or 577 g for combined cycle natural gas – which is about the absolute lowest you’ll get for a fossil fuel.
The carbon dioxide emissions are still high as all hell. It’s basically the same as a black coal fired power plant – in absolutely no way is it low in greenhouse gas emissions. All that the IDGCC technology is really accomplishing is to turn a plant powered by brown coal – the most especially inefficient and carbon dioxide intensive form of coal – into the emissions equivalent of a more conventional black coal fired plant. Make no mistake – the entirety of that dangerous fossil fuel waste is being discharged straight into the environment, as per business as usual.
But there’s one aspect to this which I find interesting, in particular.
This plant is slated to cost 750 million (Australian) dollars, and will have a nameplate capacity of 400 MW.
That is; $1875 per kilowatt of nameplate capacity.
The US nuclear energy industry is aiming to build new nuclear power plants for a cost of $1500 to $2000 per kW capacity.
The General Electric ABWR was the first third generation power plant approved. The first two ABWR’s were commissioned in Japan in 1996 and 1997. These took just over 3 years to construct and were completed on budget. Their construction costs were around $2000 per KW.
Westinghouse claims that the AP1000 power reactor will cost $1400 per KW for the first reactor and fall to as low as $1000 per KW for subsequent reactors.
I don’t know what kind of capacity factor is to be expected from an IDGCC plant – but at best, it’s comparable to that of nuclear power. If the capacity factor is significantly less, then this decreases the economic competitiveness of the coal plant relative to nuclear power still further.
We’re looking at the construction of a coal-fired power station that is not mitigating its carbon dioxide emissions in any meaningful way, emitting about 823 g CO2e/kWh straight into the atmosphere, along with all kinds of other dangerous coal byproducts, where the construction of a new nuclear power plant is already likely to be directly competitive, if not superior, on construction cost terms, even in the absence of any kind of emissions trading scheme, carbon dioxide ‘price’, carbon dioxide capture and storage or carbon dioxide sequestration.
What’s up with that?