Italy considers the gasification challenge

14-May-2012 - Italy

Delegates at the 11th European gasification conference in Cagliari, Italy, are working against a backdrop of difficult political and economic challenges according to the conference chairman, Jacobs Engineering’s John Griffiths.

Griffiths used his opening remarks to highlight three key issues that are influencing the adoption of gasification technology as a conversion route to power, fuels and chemicals from a wide range of primary energy sources.

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology is well suited to the requirements of low carbon power generation but it demands capital expenditure for which there is no commercial return in the absence of a realistic carbon pricing regime. Uncertainties surrounding the politics of carbon emission targets in Europe and elsewhere are hampering progress, prompting Griffiths to ask, “Are we going to capture CO2 or aren’t we?”

Griffiths also contended that the rundown of conventional coal fired generation in the UK driven by the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive raised major questions around security of supply, particularly in the face of industrial disputes. Citing the 1984-85 UK miners’ strike as an example, Griffiths argued that the presence of seven months coal stocks at power stations proved instrumental in keeping the lights on: “You can’t store seven months supply of gas...The UK will be totally dependent of pipelines and LPG shipments...Can we afford to put coal behind us?”

The availability of government support to stimulate low carbon power generation projects, including those based on gasification, was also cited as an area of concern: “In the old days we built plant to make money. But today, the availability of public funds is a key factor and given the state of many government balance sheets this is not something that we can depend on. Dependency on subsidy is unsustainable. How will we fund projects that have difficulty in securing private investment?”

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