DOE grants 3.7 million for Holland BPW study

September 28, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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A grant of $3.7 million has been awarded to the Holland Board of Public Works by the U.S. Department of Energy for a study of the porous sandstone under the Holland area that might be capable of containing carbon dioxide removed from smoke stack emissions at the James De Young coal-fired power plant.

The total cost of the study, which will include a test well driven into the subterranean Mt. Simon sandstone layer, is almost $4.8 million; the Holland BPW will kick in the remaining $1,075,383, according to the BPW.

In mid-September, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that more than $62 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was being provided to boost carbon capture and storage research and development. Eleven proposed projects around the country received grants; the Holland project was the only one in Michigan.

"Given the importance of coal to our energy future in the United States, China and other countries, it's crucial that we develop ways to capture and store carbon pollution," said Chu.

The Holland BPW and Praxair Inc., a Connecticut-based company, are jointly seeking a much larger grant from DOE, under the Clean Coal Power Initiative, to help pay for a high-tech process developed by Praxair that would capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from a new boiler proposed at the De Young power plant. The emissions would be condensed and "sequestered" in the sandstone underground.

According to a BPW spokesperson, the DOE would consider the Holland carbon sequestration system a "demonstration," although she noted that carbon capture and storage has been done before. Norway, for example, began disposing of carbon dioxide in the North Sea in 1996, and a synthetic natural gas plant in North Dakota that uses coal as fuel has become the world's first coal-using plant to capture and store carbon dioxide.

Loren Howard, general manager of the Holland BPW, said he recently accompanied the chief scientist employed by Praxair to a Michigan Senate hearing, where the scientist said that, while there is no such thing as an actual zero-emissions coal-fired power plant, "this is as close to a zero emissions coal-fired power plant as it gets. This will capture 99 percent of everything going out (of the smoke stack), not just the CO2."

The Mt. Simon sandstone is a geological subterranean formation that is well over a thousand feet thick, according to Howard. It is under much of Michigan but is thickest in the Holland region, and is "one of the most significant deep saline formations for CO2 storage in the Midwestern U.S.," according to a Holland BPW document. Subsequently, the study has "regional significance for other CO2 storage projects in general."

Howard said previously that the Holland Mt. Simon sandstone was seen by the DOE as one of two potential locations in the U.S. for power plant carbon sequestration. The other site was Jamestown, N. Y., but that community just parted ways with Praxair and is no longer in the running for the CCPI grant for a carbon sequestration project.

The test well will be at the BPW property on 48th Street, with the study project starting in January and continuing into 2012. The technical part of the site characterization design, field work and analysis will be managed by the Carbon Management Department at Battelle, an international science and technology enterprise based in Ohio.

The current plan by the Holland BPW is to move captured CO2 to the Tulip City Airport via pipeline, then inject it into the sandstone layer beneath the airport, which is owned by the city of Holland.

"Holland is fortunate to have the right geology for such a project," said Howard. "The HBPW and those who have agreed to partner with us have the facilities, equipment and materials necessary to accomplish the proposed research on time, within budget, and with exceptional quality."

"We hope that the successful outcome of this project and the CCPI project — if we receive an award for the CCPI project — will ultimately result in the capability to significantly reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants and improving the environment in our community, the state of Michigan and around the world," added Howard.

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