The world comes to Wilsonville to study carbon capture technology

The world comes to Wilsonville to study carbon capture technology
IEAGHG conference attendees walk through a testing skid at the National Carbon Capture Center. (Wynter Byrd / Alabama NewsCenter)

Researchers from countries as far away as China, Norway, India and Australia converged on the National Carbon Capture Center, next to Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston in Wilsonville, for a firsthand look at how the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored test facility advances innovative fossil energy technology solutions.

The world experts in carbon capture and storage (CCS) were in Birmingham Sept. 5 for the fourth-annual Post-Combustion Capture Conference (PCCC4) of the International Energy Association Greenhouse Gas (IEAGHG) program. The UK-based collaborative serves as an impartial source on CCS technologies, and its members include 15 countries, the European commission, OPEC and 16 multinational sponsors.

The National Carbon Capture Center, which is managed and operated by Southern Company, works with third-party developers on technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas power generation.

“As part of our mission, we continually share information with other test centers, technology developers, universities and governments,” said Roxann Laird, National Carbon Capture Center director. “So it’s very common for our facility to host international guests, but the IEAGHG conference was a particularly large and distinguished group.”

Among those visitors was a special delegation from the government of India that included Susheel Kumar, the country’s secretary of coal. “Through our leadership of the International Test Center Network, a global carbon capture coalition, we are exploring opportunities for collaboration and testing of carbon capture with India, which relies heavily on coal as a power generation resource,” Laird said.

After a safety briefing, the 80-plus visitors moved through six site locations and heard poster presentations on current CCS technology demonstrations from Southern Company research engineers, as well as project partners and university Ph.D. students.

IEAGHG members are researchers, engineers and technology developers working in post-combustion carbon capture – a process where carbon dioxide is removed from the flue gas of a power plant after the fossil fuel has been burned. The National Carbon Capture Center’s testing infrastructure includes a post-combustion carbon capture facility at Plant Gaston.

“The National Carbon Capture Center’s facilities are recognized internationally as playing a vital role in accelerating the commercial application of carbon capture technologies,” said Keith Burnard, IEAGHG conference chair. “For our delegates, to visit the center as part of the conference and have the opportunity to put questions to Southern Company’s expert operating staff, as well as technology developers engaged in testing, provided an unforgettable highlight.”

“Visitors like the IEAGHG come to our facility to learn how we take highly specialized, next-generation technologies out of the lab and demonstrate them in the real-world operating conditions of a power plant,” Laird said. “That’s a critical path in identifying the most promising, cost-effective carbon capture technologies and scaling them up to eventual commercial deployment.”


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