Climate change is a challenging issue not just for electric utilities and Southern Company but for our nation and the world. Leadership on this issue requires developing and deploying technologies that reduce greenhouse gases while making sure that electricity remains reliable and affordable.
Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of combustion. Southern Company is researching—with the federal government and other partners—how to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted from power plants to keep it out of the atmosphere. (See also DOE Carbon Sequestration Atlas.)
- The National Carbon Capture Center is a focal point of U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to develop advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-based power generation. The center, managed and operated by Southern Company in Alabama, works with scientists and technology developers from government, industry and universities who are creating the next generation of carbon capture technologies.
- Kemper County Energy Facility, in Mississippi, is designed to capture 65 percent of carbon dioxide to be sold for enhanced oil recovery. Kemper is the only integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant being constructed in the U.S. that is designed to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions the day it begins commercial operations. In addition, IGCC is designed to have fewer nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions than traditional pulverized coal technology. (See TRIGTM sidebar)
Start-to-finish post-combustion carbon capture and storage at Plant Barry in Alabama. The facility is the largest in the world to be connected to a pulverized coal-fired generating plant. Alabama Power and Southern Company, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the Electric Power Research Institute and others, are partners in the project. In 2011, the project began capturing carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will be supplied to the DOE's Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership and transported via pipeline to a site about 10 miles away, where it will be permanently stored in a deep geological formation.
Other Research Projects:
A Stratigraphic test well to evaluate and characterize site-specific geology for carbon sequestration is at Alabama Power's Plant Gorgas.
Geologic sequestration, in partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is evaluating the physical properties of rocks for geologic sequestration and training students in carbon sequestration science and engineering.
Deep underground saline reservoirs by injection of 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and the subsequent monitoring of its movement at Mississippi Power's Plant Daniel, has been successfully completed. Another project at Plant Daniel is studying the potential impacts of carbon dioxide on groundwater.
Injection of carbon dioxide into an unmineable coal seam in the Black Warrior Basin near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to help us learn more about both geologic sequestration and enhanced coal bed methane recovery.
A pilot injection of carbon dioxide evaluates the enhanced oil recovery and geologic sequestration potential of the Citronelle Field in south Alabama.
Carbon dioxide is neither the most widespread nor the most potent greenhouse gas. For example, water vapor is a greenhouse gas in higher atmospheric concentration while methane has a much stronger greenhouse effect.
Considerable progress has been made in controlling some anthropogenic (from human activity) greenhouse gases, like chlorofluorocarbons from refrigeration. Another lesser known gas, sulfur hexafluoride, has been a focus of Southern Company's attention. Sulfur hexafluoride SF6 has more than 20,000 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis.
The Southern Company system has hundreds of transmission substations with over a thousand breakers that use sulfur hexafluoride for its essential insulating properties. Southern Company was a charter member of EPA's Voluntary SF6 Emission Reduction Partnership which began in 1999. Since the '90s the Southern Company system has made significant progress in reducing SF6 emissions. In 1993, the Southern Company system's SF6 emissions were approximately 660,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, and in 2013, SF6 emissions were down to approximately 90 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.