“The risks associated with climate change require decisive action on the part of business and industry,” said the company’s president and CEO, Lars G. Josefsson.
The plant, part of a project to develop and commercialise the new technology, will be situated in Brandenburg, south of Berlin. It will take three years to build, at a cost of 370 million kronor (40 million euros).
By firing the fuel using pure oxygen and recycled carbon dioxide, Vattenfall says it can separate the carbon dioxide that it produced in the combustion process “in so pure a form that it can be retrieved and later stored permanently in rock formations underground” – instead of being pumped into the atmosphere.
Klaus Raucher, president of Vattenfall’s German operations, said that the oxyfuel technology behind the new plant was breaking new ground.
“[This] will give us a leading role in the development of a more climate-friendly system for the extraction of energy from lignite,” he said in a press statement.
Coal will remain Germany’s main combustion fuel, particularly after the country stops using nuclear power by 2020, but coal-fired power stations are among the most polluting because of their emissions of carbon dioxide.
Until now, the plans for emissions-free power stations have been stalled due to the high costs of capturing and storing the carbon dioxide. However the concept of emissions-free power generation was dismissed by environmental campaign group Greenpeace as “a myth”.
“There are no power stations without carbon dioxide emissions”, said Greenpeace energy expert Gabriela von Goerne.
The carbon dioxide, one of the gases responsible for global warming, will be stored in depth and will be just as toxic, she said.
Vattenfall is Europe’s fifth largest generator of electricity and the parent company, Vattenfall AB, is owned by the Swedish state.