Carbon Capture Center coming to Wilsonville

Southern Co., the parent company of Alabama Power, announced Wednesday it will manage and operate the U.S. Department of Energy’s new National Carbon Capture Center at the Power Systems Development Facility in Wilsonville.

The center, a partnership between DOE and leading energy companies, will focus on researching and developing technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-based electricity generation, said Randall Rush, Southern Co. general manager of gasification technology.

“Over half of the electricity in America and in the world is produced by coal, and it’s extremely important for we as a world to find more cost effective ways to control carbon emissions,” Rush said at an afternoon press conference. “Here we will evaluate chemical and engineering processes to capture carbon dioxide when you take coal and turn it into electricity.”

The center will work with scientists and technology developers from government, industry and universities to create the next generation of enhanced carbon capture technologies. Existing facilities at the PSDF will be modified to conduct the pre-combustion carbon dioxide component of the project. New facilities to conduct post-combustion testing will be at the nearby Alabama Power Gaston Plant, also in Wilsonville. The five-year project is expected to create or sustain nearly 170 jobs, according to a DOE news release.

By conducting analyses in a power plant setting, the center will provide meaningful performance data under real operating conditions to enable scale-up of the technologies, said David Ratcliffe, Southern Co. president and CEO.

“This center will serve as a crucial bridge that takes emerging carbon capture technology from the laboratory to commercial demonstration,” Ratcliffe said. “The National Carbon Capture Center, along with other research initiatives under way across the country, will play a major role in ensuring that the United States can continue to utilize coal resources in a cleaner, economical way.”

Southern Co. also recently announced plans to build a demonstration facility to capture carbon dioxide emissions from Alabama Power’s Plant Barry near Mobile. Beginning in 2011, between 100,000 and 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year would be transported by a pipeline from the plant and stored underground at a site about 10 miles from the plant.

The center in Wilsonville, expected to be fully operational by 2010, is the first of its kind in the world, Rush said.