Effective retrofitting of post-combustion CO2 capture to coal-fired power plants and insensitivity of CO2 abatement costs to base plant efficiency

Existing coal-fired power plants were not designed to be retrofitted with carbon dioxide post-combustion capture (PCC) and have tended to be disregarded as suitable candidates for carbon capture and storage on the grounds that such a retrofit would be uneconomical. Low plant efficiency and poor performance with capture compared to new-build projects are often cited as critical barriers to capture retrofit. Steam turbine retrofit solutions are presented that can achieve effective thermodynamic integration between a post-combustion CO2 capture plant and associated CO2 compressors and the steam cycle of an existing retrofitted unit for a wide range of initial steam turbine designs. The relative merits of these capture retrofit integration options with respect to flexibility of the capture system and solvent upgradability will be discussed. Provided that effective capture system integration can be achieved, it can be shown that the abatement costs (or cost per tonne of CO2 to justify capture) for retrofitting existing units is independent of the initial plant efficiency. This then means that a greater number of existing power plants are potentially suitable for successful retrofits of post-combustion capture to reduce power sector emissions. Such a wider choice of retrofit sites would also give greater scope to exploit favourable site-specific conditions for CCS, such as ready access to geological storage. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.