An international group of companies launched a plan on Monday to build a novel coal-fired power plant in Norway by 2011 that would curb global warming by capturing 95 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted.
OSLO An international group of companies launched a plan on Monday to build a novel coal-fired power plant in Norway by 2011 that would curb global warming by capturing 95 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted.
Many countries are trying to find ways to clean up emissions from coal, among the dirtiest of fossil fuels and a big source of gases blamed for heating the planet, in a race likely to yield billions of dollars for the best technology.
The group, including France's Eramet, U.S. Alcan and Norway's Norsk Hydro, said it would seek bids from construction firms for a 400-megawatt coal-fired plant in west Norway for about 4.5 billion crowns ($700 million).
The plant would use a new technology, developed by Norwegian clean energy group Sargas, that is meant to capture more than 95 percent of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as well as noxious nitrous oxide, in coal fumes from the plant's chimneys.
"We think we have a significant advantage -- we are ready to build now," Sargas chief executive Henrik Fleischer told Reuters, saying all the components used in the pressurised coal-burning process were known and tested.
Among rivals, the U.S.-led FutureGen Alliance plans to build a coal plant around 2012 to produce both clean electricity and hydrogen.
"We expect power generation to cost about 0.30-0.35 Norwegian crowns ($0.047-$0.055) per kilowatt hour including costs of capture," Fleischer said.
He said costs of carbon capture would push up basic power generation costs by about 25 percent. Still, the price was below forecast long-term industrial electricity prices in Norway of about 0.40 crowns per kilowatt hour, he said.
The planned Norwegian plant would strip out 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The gas could then be piped or shipped to offshore oil or gas fields, where it could be buried deep below the seabed.
Fleisher said the group expected the government to help. "We will be the first to come to the government with a significantly large amount of carbon dioxide. That's never happened before. We will see how they react," he said.
Norway has one of the world's few commercial carbon capture systems in operation at the Sleipner gas field, where about a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year is buried below the seabed.
However, a coal-fired power plant would be a radical departure in Norway where almost all electricity is generated from non-polluting hydroelectric power.
Backers of the plan are Soer-Norge Aluminium, owned 50-50 by Alcan and Norsk Hydro, the Norwegian unit of Eramet, Norwegian family-owned industrial company Tinfos AS and Sargas. All four groups have a 25-percent stake in the project.
The four said in a statement that a bid for delivering the plant could be ready in 2007, a go-ahead ready in 2008, and production could start in 2011.
Most industrial countries have agreed to cap their emissions of carbon dioxide under the U.N. Kyoto Protocol as a first step to slow the feared effects of climate change such as more floods, heat waves and droughts, and rising sea levels.