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June 15, 2017

New carbon capture technology may change the future of energy

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  • About 30 percent of our electricity in the United States is produced through coal, but coal-fired power plants produce a large proportion of the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. As a result, the W.A. Parish power plant in Texas is developing technology called “carbon capture.”
  • Carbon capture technology prevents the carbon dioxide created in coal combustion from reaching the atmosphere and worsening the greenhouse effect by capturing it and storing it underground.
  • The billion-dollar carbon capture and storage system at the W.A. Parish plant, called Petra Nova, works by conducting flue gas containing carbon dioxide through a duct to a vessel containing amine. The amine binds with the carbon dioxide, creating a solution, and the liquid flows into another vessel and is heated, releasing the carbon dioxide as gas. It is captured, compressed and directed underground for storage.
  • Petra Nova is still only capable of capturing about 10 percent of the carbon dioxide produced at the W.A. Parish plant.

  1. Essential question: How can clean energy impact the future of the environment?
  2. What effect, if any, do you think the development of carbon capture technology will have upon innovation and movement towards greater dependence on renewable energy? Explain your answer.
  3. Do you think that carbon capture technology will be effective in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere? What would be potential consequences if the Petra Nova system were to fail?
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