Hearings - Testimony
 
Subcommittee hearing on “Emerging Technologies and Practices for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
 
John Fees
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer The Babcock & Wilcox Companies

Written Testimony
of
John A. Fees
Chief Executive Officer
The Babcock & Wilcox Companies
Before the
Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection
May 9, 2007
 
Chairman Lieberman, Senator Warner and Members of the Subcommittee:
 
My name is John Fees and I am the Chief Executive Officer of The Babcock & Wilcox Companies.
 
It is my privilege to present this testimony on the combustion-based technology alternatives available on the near horizon, which are designed to capture carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants.
 
The Babcock & Wilcox Company has a rich legacy of providing reliable engineered technology solutions for efficient, base load electric generation throughout the U.S., North America and across the globe.  We have sustained our business by developing and commercializing realistic solutions.  For over a century, we have successfully met the challenges of power generation and provided the technologies and equipment to resolve the associated environmental control issues.  We provide commercially viable solutions to meet emissions control requirements of regulated pollutants.  We will provide practical technologies to resolve the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions as well.  B&W is a premier, comprehensive provider of clean energy.
 
B&W was formed in 1867.  The first utility power plant in the United States had a boiler designed and supplied by B&W.  Steam remains the most economic means to transfer the heat energy released by burning fuel to the turbine/generator, to produce electricity.  B&W has literally written the book on steam.  “Steam, Its Generation and Use” a text book produced by B&W,  is the longest continuously published engineering textbook of its kind in the world, first published in 1875 and last updated in 2005.   
 
Our manufacturing capabilities have also powered national security since the start of the last century.  Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet was primarily powered by B&W boilers.  At the end of World War II, at the surrender of Japan, 395 of the 400 U.S. Navy ships in Tokyo Bay were powered by B&W boilers.  In the 1950s, B&W became a major U.S. manufacturer and supplier of components
 
 
for the U.S. Navy’s fleet of nuclear powered ships and submarines which are now built in Groton, Connecticut and Newport News, Virginia.
 
Beyond defense, nuclear power is a route to carbon-free electricity generation for civilian purposes.  We are the only US manufacturer of the heavy nuclear components that will be required for the emerging civilian nuclear power plant build-up.  As such we anticipate playing a critical role in the coming nuclear renaissance to provide clean, safe nuclear power.  I could easily write a substantial amount on nuclear power and its potential to help reduce carbon emissions, but the principal focus of this testimony is coal fired generation and carbon capture.
 
Coal-fired and nuclear power plants provide the vast majority of the reliable and lowest cost electricity generation in this Country.  Coal-fired and nuclear power plants combined comprise 41 percent of the Nation’s electric generation capacity. However, due to their cost effectiveness, these plants are highly dispatched, and actually produce 69 percent of all the electricity in the Country.  These technologies are the foundation of our economic competitiveness, energy security, and increasing standard of living.
 
B&W’s position as a premier developer and manufacturer of coal technologies and facilities is widely recognized. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. coal-fired boilers have been designed and manufactured by B&W.  We supply around one-third of all environmental control technologies and equipment to the U.S. coal power marketplace.  We have been selected to provide many of the emission control technology solutions used by electric power generators to meet the strictest requirements under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) rule and various stringent air permitting requirements in the states.  B&W has also been awarded a number of the new, highly efficient supercritical coal fired power plant projects, including the first, next-generation, high efficiency Ultra Supercritical Power plant in the U.S.
 
Advanced Coal Power Technologies
 
Efficiencies
 
Efficiency at a power plant is measured by the ratio of the electricity generated compared to the energy in the fuel used.  Increasing steam temperatures and pressures provides more energy to the steam turbine, enabling higher efficiency and allowing the same amount of electricity to be generated by burning less coal.  This results in less production of CO2 and pollutants derived by coal combustion, reduced fuel costs and smaller and less costly power plants for the same power generated.
 
 
Many existing US coal-fired plants operate with relatively low steam temperatures and pressures (subcritical steam conditions).  These old plants are generally used during high electricity demand periods because of the low generation efficiency, typically in the 30-35 percent range.  When steam conditions exceed the combination of both 760F and 3200psi, the steam (or working fluid) is said to reach supercritical conditions.  Efficiencies of these plants exceed 37 percent.  Replacement of a relatively common 37 percent efficient subcritical unit with a 40 percent supercritical unit of same generating capacity would reduce CO2 emissions by about 8 percent.  Supercritical plants with efficiencies around 40 percent are already commercially available and being increasingly deployed.   R&D projects with advanced materials and manufacturing methods are underway to permit increases of working fluid temperatures to 1200F, and then to around 1400F.  When this happens efficiencies will rise above 43 percent toward 48 percent.  Carbon intensity will be reduced by a further 20 percent versus current modern plants.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
It is important to note when evaluating coal plant performance, that efficiency numbers, taken at face value, can be misleading.  The US convention for calculating efficiency, called “higher heating value (HHV),” is different from that used in Europe, “lower heating value (LHV).”  One of the factors responsible for the difference is the way moisture in coal is treated in the efficiency calculation.  There are other factors that enter into the calculation as well.  The result is that, for virtually identical plant performance (coal fuel in vs. power out), the US efficiency (HHV basis) would be reported as being up to 5 percent lower than European efficiency (LHV basis).
 
Pollutants
 
The emissions from pulverized coal-fired power plants have been reduced tremendously over the past three decades, with this achievement due in part to market based regulatory structures pulling technology forward for deployment. Great strides have been made in SO2 and NOx reduction through scrubbing and selective catalytic reduction technologies. Fabric filters and improvements in electrostatic precipitators have reduced particulate emissions and more recently, technologies such as wet electrostatic precipitators and sorbent injection are capable of further reductions including fine particulates (PM2.5).
 
With technologies available to address regulated pollutants and major programs to retrofit the existing fleet in progress, public and industry attention turned to mercury.  As a result, commercially available mercury control, for both eastern and western coals are being deployed.  Now, concerns about climate change have intensified leading to the pressing need for the development of ways to address carbon dioxide emissions.
 
Carbon Dioxide Capture
 
There are several promising technologies to address capture of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels and all are dependent upon development of a safe means of permanent storage. Assuming storage technologies can be commercialized and enabled, the challenge for coal combustion processes becomes one of extracting the CO2 from the combustion process. A modern power plant using sub-bituminous coal will produce about 1,800 lbs of CO2 per MWh.  In an uncontrolled state, the CO2 is diluted in the exhaust gas to about 15 percent of its volume; this creates a challenge to produce a concentrated CO2 stream for storage.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Three approaches are presently seen as plausible carbon capture techniques: 1) Oxy Coal Combustion for new and existing plants that burn coal, 2) amine or other solvent scrubbing for new or existing plants that burn coal, and 3) pre-combustion, or integrated gasification combined cycle, if the IGCC system is designed and fitted with facilities to accommodate CO2 capture.  Oxygen combustion produces a concentrated stream of CO2 in the combustion process by supplying pure oxygen instead of air for combustion eliminating nitrogen which dilutes the CO2 concentration.  Pre-combustion and amine or other solvent scrubbing processes extract the CO2 from the gas stream using a regenerable solvent such as monoethanolamine (MEA). Some current studies now show oxygen combustion as the least costly while other studies lean toward pre-combustion or advanced amines, indicating that technology development is underway and competition is strong.  None of the technologies has been demonstrated at significant size in an integrated full-scale system for electricity generation.
 
Oxy-Coal Combustion
The Oxy Coal combustion process is based upon equipment and systems that are already commercially available at the required scale.  However, there are integration requirements, operating parameters and final designs that require verification at larger scale.  Oxygen combustion and the major operational processes have been demonstrated at pilot scale.  B&W has been actively engaged in oxy-coal combustion R&D since the late 1990’s.  We will complete a large pilot demonstration this summer with a variety of coal types at our 30 MWth combustion test facility.
 
A new 300 MWe commercial plant using this technology is being developed by B&W for the SaskPower Corporation to be located at Estevan, Saskatchewan.  At this facility the captured CO2 will be used for enhanced oil recovery.
 
In addition, American Electric Power, one of the largest utilities in the U.S., has announced it is undertaking a feasibility study with B&W with the proposed objective of retrofitting one of its existing coal fired power plants with B&W’s Oxy-Coal combustion technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS).
 
In spite of the additional cost to concentrate a CO2 stream for storage, recent studies show oxygen combustion to be competitive with the other capture technologies.  Since this technology utilizes conventional equipment, it is likely to have a considerably lower deployment and operational risk, and has potential for retrofit to some of the existing fleet of conventional plants.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Oxygen combustion provides a means of replacing the nitrogen in air with CO2 gas exiting the combustion chamber.  By recirculating a portion of the  combustion stream the oxy coal combustion plant effectively replaces the nitrogen in a conventional system with CO2 thereby inherently creating a concentrated CO2 stream for permanent storage. The net effect is that the system looks and acts like a conventional power plant with which power plant operators are comfortable, but which is capable of near zero emissions given carbon storage. Additionally, by excluding air conveyed nitrogen from the combustion chamber there is a sharp reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions from this technology, which is likely to obviate the need for selective catalytic reduction facilities.
 
Although the properties of the flue gas differ from those with air firing due to the lack of nitrogen, it has been found that with the proper recycle ratio, an existing boiler can be converted to oxy coal combustion without changing heat transfer surfaces and only experiencing a small impact on fuel efficiency in the boiler island.  For new units, optimized arrangements are being studied that offer some reduction in equipment size and improved performance.
 
The first generation of full-scale units is intended to require minimal change to the conventional power plant as reasonable to permit retrofit application and minimize risk.  Advanced air separation technologies and optimization of the product gas specification and the cleanup/compression process are also expected to improve both performance and cost.
 
Development of Other Innovations
While we see oxy -coal technology as one of the potential carbon management solutions for the relatively near future, B&W is also developing a portfolio of potential solutions – including some that are radically different from any that are currently approaching readiness for full scale testing.  We have increased our R&D budget by 300 percent in the last five years, with the great majority of this increase directed toward advanced technology.  With similar amounts planned on an ongoing basis, we envision development of new advanced techniques for the capture of CO2 (in addition to oxy-coal combustion); and materials developments that will both greatly increase the efficiency of new coal plants and synergistically enable reductions in carbon capture cost impacts.  We envision small scale demonstrations of new advanced concepts beginning in the 2010 timeframe, with scale-up demonstrations anticipated around 2015.    
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Carbon Storage
Disposition of captured CO2 is a critical dimension to solving climate challenges.  Providing technologies to effectively capture CO2 will accomplish little if storage is not simultaneously enabled.  We, and other technology developers, may be able to provide the technical capability for carbon capture well before resolution of the issues associated with large scale storage.  We are encouraged that issues pertaining to actual storage of captured CO2 are drawing increasing technical and policy attention.  Legislation must support the acceleration of technical efforts promoting large scale carbon injections associated with advanced coal technology and storage.  In addition there is a need for clear policies regarding legal ownership of and liability for the injected CO2, and concise communications to overcome local concerns with large annual injections at storage sites.  We believe that unless the regulatory and technical obstacles to the long-term storage of carbon dioxide from electric power plants are resolved, these will become the limiting factors in reducing carbon emissions.
 
Closing Comments
B&W believes that from a technology standpoint that CO2 storage from power plants could commence wide scale around 2020. The first wave of near-zero emission coal plants are expected to start operation around 2012-2013.  As industry learns from these early commercial deployments, we will make adjustments to improve efficiency, competitiveness and performance.  After this, around 2015, commercial availability of CCS technologies should be available for new plants and retrofit of some existing plants.  These will take 4-5 years to build before the plants come online and begin storing CO2 in the 2020 timeframe.
 
Technology development, economic and market incentives are essential to accelerate the timeframe for implementing widespread carbon capture deployments on a commercial scale.  This will only be successful if legislation does not favor one technology over another.
 
We are confident that our Oxy Coal Combustion technology can provide the most cost-effective solution for some power plants, while other technologies are better suited for others.
 
We are encouraged by indications that a consensus is building toward a market-based system for carbon management.  A market-based system should encourage an efficient allocation of resources for reductions of carbon emissions both at new plants and, where tenable, at some existing plants.  It is important to recognize that to significantly reduce our nation’s CO2 emissions, capture of CO2 will have to occur at a number of existing fossil-fired plants.
 
 
 
 
 
B&W is in general agreement with many of the perceptions and recommendations cited in the MIT report, “The Future of Coal”:
 
  • The U.S. Government should promote a suite of technology approaches to CCS, and avoid picking winners.  Biasing RD&D funds towards one technology and/or biasing commercial deployment incentives will only discourage investment in technologies that have significant potential for marketplace acceptance, improved performance and reduced cost.
 
  • An array of large scale CCS projects should be implemented in the near to mid-term, with the ~ 1 million ton of captured carbon dioxide per plant annually stored at a variety of CO2 storage sites across the Country.
 
To facilitate the attainment of commercial readiness of CCS technologies, the government will need to provide funding levels well in excess of those traditionally available through DOE’s Fossil Energy programs.
 
Thank you for the privilege to testify before the Subcommittee on these critically important matters.

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