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Economic and environmental evaluation of coal-and-biomass-to-liquids-and-electricity plants equipped with carbon capture and storage

Abstract

Among various clean energy technologies, one innovative option for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and criteria pollutants involves pairing carbon capture and storage (CCS) with the production of synthetic fuels and electricity from a combination of coal and sustainably sourced biomass. With a relatively pure CO2 stream as an inherent byproduct of the process, most of the resulting GHG emissions can be eliminated by simply compressing the CO2 for pipeline transport. Subsequent storage of the CO2 output in underground reservoirs can result in very low—perhaps even near-zero—net GHG emissions, depending on the fraction of biomass as input and its CO2 signature. To examine the potential market penetration and environmental impact of coal-and-biomass-to-liquids-and-electricity (CBtLE), a system-wide sensitivity analysis was performed using the MARKet ALlocation energy model. CBtLE was found to be most competitive in scenarios with a combination of high oil prices, low CCS costs, and, unexpectedly, non-stringent carbon policies. In the scheme considered here (30 % biomass input on an energy basis and 85 % carbon capture), CBtLE fails to achieve significant market share in deep decarbonization scenarios, regardless of oil prices and CCS costs. Such facilities would likely require higher fractions of biomass feedstock and captured CO2 to successfully compete in a carbon-constrained energy system.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to express their sincere gratitude to the members of the Energy and Climate Assessment Team (ECAT) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, including Carol Lenox and Ozge Kaplan, who are responsible for maintaining and distributing EPA’s MARKAL databases. Many thanks also to Bela Deshpande, now of the California Air Resources Board, whose initial research on CBtLE as a research fellow at EPA helped provide a basis for the study presented here. This project was supported in part by an appointment to the Postdoctoral Research Program at the Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and EPA.

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Correspondence to Daniel H. Loughlin.

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This article has been subjected to the agency’s peer and administrative review and has been cleared for publication. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Aitken, M.L., Loughlin, D.H., Dodder, R.S. et al. Economic and environmental evaluation of coal-and-biomass-to-liquids-and-electricity plants equipped with carbon capture and storage. Clean Techn Environ Policy 18, 573–581 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-015-1020-z

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Keywords

  • MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) energy system model
  • Fischer–Tropsch liquid fuels
  • Gasification
  • Electricity generation
  • Coal
  • Biomass
  • Carbon capture and sequestration