Image: Power plant tube that carries carbon dioxide away
Michael Urban  /  AFP-Getty Images
A worker at a new coal-fired power plant near Berlin, Germany, poses with a tube used to carry away carbon dioxide created by the plant.
updated 9/9/2008 3:11:55 PM ET 2008-09-09T19:11:55

Energy provider Vattenfall AG fired up its carbon capture lignite plant Tuesday, the latest effort in the industry's attempts to make coal-fired energy synonymous with clean air.

The pilot, 30 megawatt plant at Schwarze Pumpe — in the Lausitz region of eastern Germany — is intended to capture and bury up to 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the next three years. The carbon dioxide will then be injected and stored two miles below the surface about 124 miles north of the plant instead of being released in to the air.

This $99 million project is the first of its kind, said spokesman Damian Mueller.

It couples lignite-fired power with oxyfuel technology, which burns coal with pure oxygen, turning the product into nearly pure C02 that's ready to be injected into the ground. The CO2 will be stored or could potentially be put to industrial use, such as helping pump natural gas from the ground.

If the technology works, the Swedish-based company intends to build two large-scale demonstration plants in Germany.

"We are very convinced that this technology will have a future," said Mueller said. "We are concerned, too, that nobody — (such as) China or India — will stop burning coal. (The goal is) to provide this new technology in a few years for China and India and the world."

Some environmental groups discount the idea of capturing and storing CO2, saying the world should instead move away from carbon-intense fuels. But others have said they're willing to see if the capture and storage technology works.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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