The Nanticoke Energy Centre: Ontario’s hub of clean electricity, motor vehicle fuel, and high value chemicals

A smart article by Steve Aplin: how to convert the Nanticoke coal-fired generating station into a low-carbon source of both electricity and synthetic fuel (which releases the captured carbon when burned). Here’s an excerpt outlining the concept:

(…) The answer: turn Nanticoke into a clean energy centre, which produces low-carbon electricity, zero-carbon hydrogen, low carbon motor vehicle fuel, and low-carbon chemicals. This would involve the following three things.

  1. Convert the eight generators at the plant to fire using the oxy-fuel process. This burns coal in the presence of pure oxygen (not air, which is mostly nitrogen), resulting in a concentrated stream of CO2, which is then far more easily and cheaply captured than current CO2-capture processes, which must separate dilute CO2 from nitrogen.
  2. Make hydrogen by splitting Lake Erie water using the energy from a high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactor, such as Areva’s ANTARES, which is similar to the HTGR that is the technological basis for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. Water-splitting produces both hydrogen and oxygen; the oxygen would be used in step 1, above.

    The Next Generation Nuclear Plant, which runs on graphite-moderated enriched uranium and is cooled with helium gas, can generate outlet temperatures above 800 °C, ideal for converting carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide

  3. Use the captured CO2 and manufactured hydrogen to make carbon monoxide (CO). On its own, CO is an extremely valuable precursor chemical; when mixed with hydrogen to form a synthesis gas, it is the carbonaceous raw material for the manufacture of Fischer Tropsch fuel, including gasoline and diesel.

The foregoing would represent the biggest, most ambitious, and most innovative application of the Three Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle—the world has ever seen. Ontario would become the centre of a new fuel manufacturing industry, one that is tied not to the world price of petroleum but to the price of coal and water.

Please read the entire article. And the well-informed comments. This is the kind of thinking that can make a real difference – so different from the familiar twaddle that comforts the political elite who favor “Well that didn’t work, so let’s do more of it”. More of the same feel-good policy is absolutely is going to produce the outcomes described in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report.