Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yates Models Capturing Carbon in Air; Research Shows It Is a "Viable Technology" for Gas Emissions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yates Models Capturing Carbon in Air; Research Shows It Is a "Viable Technology" for Gas Emissions

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

NEWNAN - The 800-foot smokestack dominating the horizon along a wooded stretch of the Chattahoochee River represented the state's burgeoning post-war economy when Georgia Power Co. built Plant Yates in the 1950s.

It could come to represent progress of a different sort today - progress addressing carbon emissions. It was from that stack that the company first succeeded in pulling carbon dioxide, or CO2, from the escaping flue gas of an operating commercial power plant in September.

Georgia Power parent Southern Co. intends to take what it learns at Yates to the bigger Plant Barry in Alabama. There, it plans to condense the CO2 and pump it into an underground salt dome 12 miles away on the edge of that state's largest oil field.

"It's almost like putting it in an inverted soup bowl," said Southern Co. geologist Richard Esposito.

The giant utility-holding company is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the research even though most political observers believe that November's election results effectively killed the chances of sweeping carbon-control laws, such as the so-called cap-and-trade bill.

One reason is the likelihood that the political pendulum will eventually swing again in favor of some type of carbon tax or emissions limit. And the Southern Co. has a lot at stake.

Sixth in the world in terms of CO2 generation, Southern Co. produces an estimated 172 million tons annually, according to the Center for Global Development. Company executives believe they'll one day face the choice of closing plants like Yates or refitting them with devices to capture the carbon so it can be stored somewhere forever.

"Our research shows that carbon capture and storage is a viable technology to address greenhouse gas emissions," said Chris Hobson, Southern Co.'s chief environmental officer.

Development of new technology, however, takes dozens of years. The company is aiming to be capturing and storing 1 million tons of CO2 per year by 2020, a goal it began working toward in 2005 with its first geology surveys. …

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