Putting a lasso around carbon emissions

Wisconsin State Roundup

Ronald A. Wirtz | Editor, fedgazette | @RonWirtz

Published January 1, 2010  | January 2010 issue

A Wisconsin utility has reportedly accomplished the difficult task of preventing carbon dioxide emissions from escaping into the atmosphere.

In an experiment at one of its coal-fired power plants, We Energies used chilled-ammonia technology that was first developed by the French firm Alstom. The process acts as a magnet for carbon dioxide and purifies it for possible sequestration underground, rather than being released into the air.

The experiment managed to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from a small, designated portion of total emissions. Results were released after a year-long, continuous test that began in September 2008.

The $8 million experiment was sponsored by 37 firms and the Electric Power Research Institute. Despite the success, many obstacles remain before the technology becomes viable. For starters, there are no appropriate geological formations that would be able to retain the carbon dioxide, which means any captured CO2 would have to be piped elsewhere—one reason why the carbon dioxide captured by the test was eventually released back into the air.