The joint project, by chemicals producer ZAK and energy producer PKE, would use state-of-the-art technology to turn coal into synthetic gas, which is then converted into electricity and heat, or chemicals. The carbon produced in the process would be captured and stored underground (see EurActiv LinksDossier).
The plant would be built in Upper Silesia, one of Europe's most polluted regions, possibly in cooperation with neighbouring Czech Republic.
"The European Union currently can either extract or purchase natural gas. Our project demonstrates that a third supply option is now open to us – and one which enhances energy security in Europe," said Krzysztof Jałosiński, president of ZAK. The new technology could therefore help Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and others which suffered severe supply disruptions during the gas crisis between Russia and UK reduce their dependence on Russian gas," he added.
The companies are pushing for the project's inclusion on a list of 10-12 EU-funded carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants. They argue that it will enable the testing of some 20 different technologies, identified as crucial for the 'de-risking' of CCS by the European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Plants (ZEP) (EurActiv 12/11/08), while cutting its total CO2 emissions by 92%.
Andrzej Siemaszko, Poland's coordinator for the 7th Framework Programme (FP7), suggested exploring the transportation of captured carbon through a Czech-Polish pipeline from Ostrava to the mesozoic reservoirs stretching from the Baltic Sea through Poland. He said this was the largest onshore reservoir and perfect for carbon storage due to its porous sediment.
The project has broad political backing from the Polish government, and Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek is also a supporter. ZAK and PKE are looking into forming partnerships with companies such as Shell, GE and Siemens, which have experience of the proposed technologies and leverage at European level.
The companies estimate the project would cost around €1.3 billion and are hoping to cover half of this with EU funding for CCS demonstration projects and potentially with some additional money from the structural funds. They are also in talks with the Polish government for financial support.
The project should be up and running by 2015, according to EU objectives. The companies expect investors to have their money returned by 2030, but exactly how profitable the plant is will be determined by the development of carbon prices.