Carbon Capture Project Halted By American Electric Power Company

A project started by American Electric Power Company, intended to capture and store carbon dioxide, has been put on hold indefinitely. In a statement, the company said the reason for putting the project on hold had to do with the poor economy and the uncertainty of U.S. climate policy.

American Electric Power Company is based in Columbus, Ohio, and is one of the nation’s largest providers of electricity. The company has 80 power plants in 11 states and currently serves 5.2 million customers. The company’s original plan was to be a part of a project that would capture and store carbon dioxide emitted by the plant every year. AEP had partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted by a coal energy plant in West Virginia.

The project was originally supposed to take place at the coal-powered Mountaineer power plant in New Haven, West Virginia. Energy produced by coal currently accounts for half of the electricity used in the U.S. and is responsible for 34% of greenhouse gas emissions. The project was expected to begin operation in 2015 and would have captured an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted from the plant every year. After capturing the carbon dioxide, the emissions would have been stored approximately 1.5 miles below the surface. The technology used to remove carbon dioxide emissions would have siphoned away at least half of the power generated by the power plant.

Michael G. Morris, the chairman and chief executive of AEP, announced that the project is “on hold until economic and policy conditions create a viable path forward.” Business at AEP has been slow recently due to a low demand for electricity. Because of the lower demand, prices for electricity has also been low, as well as prices for natural gas. Subsequently, AEP has not been able to receive a profit on new generating plants. There is no definite answer about the price of carbon capture and storage, but it will undoubtedly be extremely expensive. Because of the high costs, especially in an unstable and weak economy, the company was forced to abandon the project before it was completed.

AEP has been a part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy for the last two years. The company received $334 million from the Department of Energy to fund the project to capture and store carbon. Now that the project has been halted, AEP will no longer be part of the agreement. The first part of the project, which would include the development of an environmental impact statement, is expected to be completed before the project is completely terminated. The first part of the project is estimated to cost $16 million.

When the project was initially started, it appeared that the U.S. was on its way to limiting the amount of carbon emissions that power companies could legally emit. If that had been the case, the carbon capture and storage project would have been valuable and necessary for AEP. Instead, efforts in Congress to limit carbon dioxide emissions failed last summer when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives.

Even though the government has not yet enacted limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power companies, it’s possible that CO2 regulations will be enacted in the future. The Environmental Protection Agency has been given permission by the Supreme Court to put limits on greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Legislation to regulate and limit greenhouse gas emissions is expected to be proposed by the EPA later this year. Until then, the benefits of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, should continue to be utilized in order to create more sustainable energy usage in the U.S.

Photo Credit: ci.salem.va.us/depts/electric/images/cookdr.jpg

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