Decatur ethanol production project showing success for carbon capture-storage (CCS) technology

CO2 compressor at ADM's Decatur, Illinois ethanol CCS facility. Photo: ADM.

CO2 compressor at ADM’s Decatur, Illinois ethanol CCS facility. Photo: ADM.

Decatur, Illinois — Efforts to demonstrate the effectiveness of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a means of reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions seem to be achieving success in an Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) ethanol production project based in Decatur.

According to a March 21st report in the Decatur Herald-Review, the project seems to be on target, with the “process is going as planned” and CCS first phase described as “75 percent complete”.

Barring unforeseen drawbacks, the Decatur project could provide a strong boost for CCS applications in coal-fueled power generation facilities.

As recounted in a May 2012 report on the Ethanol Producer website, ADM’s project is part of the Illinois Basin-Decatur Project, an effort launch in 2007 and led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, the U.S. DOE, Schlumberger Carbon Services, and ADM. In fact, it’s the first of two CCS projects under way in the program, with the goal of proving that “large amounts of CO2 from industrial sources can be compressed and injected into deep geological formations for storage, thus reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lessening their effects on the environment.”

There has been has significant federal investment in both CCS projects. Funding for the first project has been channeled through the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium under the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The DOE’s interest in CCS stems from its belief that “the process offers a way to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change…” notes Ethanol Producer. “But in order to advance the use of this technology, the economics of the operations first need to be proven.”

The technology itself seems to be working. Several years after launch, reports the Ethanol Producer article, in November 2012, CO2 from ADM’s Decatur ethanol plant at last “began being captured, transported via pipeline and injected for permanent storage into a nearby geologic formation known as the Mount Simon Sandstone….”

With CO2 capture and storage running smoothly, injection of the gas has continued, averaging 1,000 metric tons per day. The project is slated to conclude in the fall of this year (2014); at that point, project leaders hope to have injected as much as one million metric tons of CO2 into permanent storage in the deep underground reservoir.

Federal funding totaling $141 million for the second CCS project has been provided via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“stimulus”) of 2009.

Success of the ADM’s Decatur ethanol CCS operation has been attracting political attention and support, according to the Herald-News coverage. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, affirmed his belief that CCS “is part of the solution” to the problem solving the confluence of energy needs, of GHG emissions, and global warming.

Durbin sees the ADM CCS project as just a beginning, and he’s eyeing further efforts to test and advance CCS technology. These include launching FutureGen, planned to start at a site about 60 miles to west of Decatur. According to the Herald-News, Sen. Durbin sees FutureGen, focused on capturing emissions from coal-fired power plants, as”an even more ambitious project” and “a dramatic next step.”

In any case, ADM’s ethanol CCS venture at Decatur is garnering attention “from around the country and world” which “will continue to be focused on the site in Decatur to see if the project continues to be successful.” And, if this implementation of CCS technology “proves to be as worthwhile as anticipated”, reports the paper, “ADM has ambitious business aspirations” for it.


Philippines: New geothermal project launched on Mindoro Island

Simulation of Montelago geothermal plant. Graphic: Wikimedia.

Simulation of Montelago geothermal plant. Graphic: Wikimedia.

The Philippines, the world’s largest consumer of geothermally produced electricity, is currently operating ten geothermal power plants — second only to the USA in worldwide production of geothermal energy.

This month, yet another major geothermal plant, this one on the island of Mindoro, was launched by Emerging Power, Inc. (EPI) under power supply agreements with Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative, Inc. for the output of the company’s Montelago geothermal plant.

Mindoro Island site of geothermal plant. Map: InterAksyon.

Mindoro Island site of geothermal plant. Map: InterAksyon.

According to the news site InterAksyon, EPI is constructing the new plant in Barangays Montelago, Montemayor and Melgar B in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. The facility is designed to generate 40 megawatts (MW) of power, with each cooperative receiving 20 MW.

Under a geothermal renewable energy service contract with the Philippine Department of Energy, EPI plans to commence drilling to tap geothermal energy later this year, with completion and power generation targeted for mid-2016.

In addition to providing additional electricity supply, the geothermal plant is projected to reduce the cost of Mindoro’s electricity rates by 40 percent. Electricity output from the new plant is expected to further stabilize power cost, bringing rates down even further by 2030, according to an EPI spokesman.

China and Australia collaborating on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology

CCS pilot plant at Shenhua Group coal mining site in Ordos, China. Photo: Wu-Hong.

CCS pilot plant at Shenhua Group coal mining site in Ordos, China. Photo: Wu-Hong.

Collaboration between Australia and China on carbon capture and storage (CCS) is highlighted in a 19 November 2013 article on the Geoscience Australia website, focusing on the China Australia Geological Storage (CAGS) Project.

As this article explains, beginning in 2009 and concluding in mid-2012, CAGS Phase I was developed and supported with an allocation of A$2.86 million by the Australian government in accordance with the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. “The project focused on capacity building in the area of geological storage of CO2 in both China and Australia.”

The article notes that many of the materials generated through the CAGS project, “including educational material, are available for download through the CAGS website.”

According to this report, in addition to a variety of research studies and academic activities, CAGS Phase 1 also completed “Three successful research projects within China focusing on storage site characterisation, storage with enhanced oil recovery, and risk management for storage which have produced outputs such as criteria for storage site evaluation and advice regarding the development of a risk assessment and regulatory regime for CO2 storage in China”.

In mid-2012 a second phase of the project (CAGS Phase II) began, via funding approved under the Australia-China Joint Co-ordination Group on Clean Coal Technology. This phase will conclude sometime in 2014 “building on the relationships and work completed in the project’s first phase.”

Altogether, this cooperative project seems an encouraging step toward advancing the development of CCS technology, particularly in China and Australia.

World’s largest solar thermal electric power generating complex nears opening in Mojave Desert

Three water towers of Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System illumunated by concentrated sunlight from heliostat reflectors. Graphic: RAFAA.

Three water towers of Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System illumunated by concentrated sunlight from heliostat reflectors. Graphic: RAFAA.

A major advance in innovative alternative electric power generation was achieved this past September with the opening of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on about 5.5 square miles of public land in the Mojave Desert of California. The system deploys concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, concentrating reflected sunlight via special mirrors called heliostats in a process to heat water into steam for running turbines to create electric power.

Jointly owned by NRG Energy, Inc., BrightSource Energy, Inc., and Google, the Ivanpah facility, with an investment cost of $2.2 billion (and a $1.6 billion loan guarantee by the U.S. Department of Energy), is a project of BrightSource Energy and Bechtel. It’s designed to generate 377 megawatts of power, enough electricity on some days to power over 200,000 homes. The facility’s power output will be sold to two Californian utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Ivanpah solar thermal power project is located in Majoave desert, between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Map: BrightSource Energy.

Ivanpah solar thermal power project is located in Majoave desert, between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Map: BrightSource Energy.

The Ivanpah complex, currently considered the world’s largest CSP installation, consists of three solar thermal power plants, each with a vast array of heliostats focusing and concentrating sunlight on a special receiver in each central water tower. In the towers, the water is heated, creating high-temperature steam that is then piped to run turbines connected to electric power generators. The three arrays together deploy a total of 173,500 heliostats.

According to the main Ivanpah solar facility website,

The entire Ivanpah project features an industry-leading low-impact design, resulting in maximum land-use efficiency. Our heliostat technology places individual mirrors onto metal poles that are driven into the ground, which allows vegetation to coexist underneath and around our mirrors; reduces the need for extensive land grading; and uses far fewer concrete pads than other technologies.

A particular advantage of the Ivanpah design over other solar thermal designs, according to BrightSource, is its use of a dry air-cooling system, allowing the power complex “to reduce water usage by more than 90% over competing solar thermal technologies using conventional wet cooling systems.”

A major drawback to CSP systems such as Ivanpah is the requirement for huge expanses of acreage and the effects of open-air heating, and the impacts of both of these on the immediate environment. In the case of Ivanpah, there are complaints of disruption to wildlife habitats, and birds have been harmed by the intensely concentrated solar radiation from the heliostats.

On the other hand, there are major benefits such as a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the near-elimination of raw material consumption for ongoing power production. According to the Ivanpah Solar website,

More than 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided over the 30-year life cycle of the plant, equivalent to taking 2.1 million cars off the road. This solar complex also cuts major air pollutants by 85% compared to new natural gas-fired power plants.

For additional information on the Ivanpah facility, see:

Ivanpah Solar Power Facility

World’s biggest solar thermal power plant fired up in California

Welcome to Future Power Now


Geothermal power plant, venting steam. Photo via Navigant Research.

Finding innovative ways to improve the production of energy — particularly for electric power generation — that are more efficient, sustainable, and environmentally sensitive, is crucial for the future of our planet.

Future Power Now intends to provide information, news, and analysis of this issue, especially by focusing on emerging technologies such as:

Carbon capture and storage (also called carbon sequestration) — Technology to capture and sequester, and hopefully re-use, carbon emissions from combustion of coal and other fossil fuels.

Environmentally compatible extraction of shale oil and natural gas — Technology to significantly upgrade and ensure the full protection of ground water and other resources in procedures such as hydraulic fracturing.

Environmentally secure protection in deep-water drilling — Technology to effectively prevent leakage and disastrous ruptures from deep-water petroleum extraction facilities.

Geothermal energy — Developments in electric power production from thermal energy extracted from deep within the earth.

Solar power — Developments in improving the efficiency of photovoltaic cells and ameliorating the environmental impact of solar arrays.


Stillwater hybrid solar-geothermal power plant in Nevada. Photo via

Concentrating thermal power (CSP) — This innovative form of energy production deploys mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large amount of sunlight (solar thermal energy) onto a small area, producing high heat. This can then be used to generate electrical power by channeling the converted heat to drive a steam turbine or similar device geared to an electrical power generator.

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Nuclear fusion — Developments in efforts to make this promising form of nuclear energy extraction (with insignificant residual waste) a reality.

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