Southern Company to operate Department of Energy's National Carbon Capture Center

Public-private partnership will focus on developing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-based electricity generation.

Southern Company today announced it will manage and operate the U.S. Department of Energy's new National Carbon Capture Center, which will develop and test advanced technologies to capture carbon dioxide from coal-based power plants.

The center, a partnership between DOE and leading energy companies, is located at the Power Systems Development Facility (PSDF), a research and development complex south of Birmingham, Alabama.

The center will work with scientists and technology developers from government, industry and universities who are creating the next generation of enhanced carbon capture technologies. The center will conduct testing and analyses in a power plant setting, at a size large enough to provide meaningful performance data under real operating conditions to enable scale-up of the technologies.

In addition to DOE and Southern Company, current partners include American Electric Power, Luminant, Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), among others. The center expects to add more partners as its work progresses.

“Carbon capture is an important component of the diverse portfolio of solutions and technologies the nation needs to meet our energy and environmental challenges,” said David Ratcliffe, Southern Company chairman, president and CEO. “This center will serve as a crucial bridge that takes emerging carbon capture technology from the laboratory to commercial demonstration.

“With coal currently providing more than half of the nation's electricity, it should be part of the energy mix for years to come because of its abundance, relatively low cost and effectiveness as a generating fuel. The National Carbon Capture Center, along with other research initiatives underway across the country, will play a major role in ensuring that the United States can continue to utilize fossil energy resources in a cleaner, economical way,” Ratcliffe said.

DOE said it expects the center to be a focal point of national efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through technological innovation.

“The management of CO2 from coal-fired processes is considered by many to be the single most important component required for successful development of advanced coal-fired power systems,” said Dr. Victor Der, acting assistant secretary for fossil energy. “The creation of a national research center focused on carbon capture from fossil-fueled power plants bolsters U.S. efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while taking advantage of America's vast coal resources.”

The National Carbon Capture Center plans to conduct testing on both pre-combustion and post-combustion carbon capture technologies. Existing facilities at the PSDF will be modified to conduct the pre-combustion CO2 capture component of the project. New facilities to conduct post-combustion testing and evaluation will be on the site of Plant Gaston, a coal-fueled generating plant adjacent to the PSDF that is operated by Southern Company subsidiary Alabama Power.

Once fully operational in 2010, the National Carbon Capture Center will bring together science and innovation in technology development, along with real-world testing capability, to play a leading role in the effort to achieve cost-effective and reliable capture of CO2 from coal-based power generation.