General Electric on Tuesday said that it has reached an agreement to deploy its coal gasification technology in China, a move the company says will advance underground storage of carbon dioxide.
The energy giant announced a set of agreements in a ceremony in Beijing, including deals for GE's high-speed rail and hybrid locomotive engines. The activity comes the same day that China and the U.S. announced a number of energy-related research initiatives in coal, electric vehicles, and smart-grid technologies.
GE and coal power plant operator Shenhua Group signed a memorandum of understanding to create a joint venture to build plants that use GE's coal gasification products. They projected that a definitive agreement would be done by the first half of next year.
Coal gasification, already used in dozens of facilities, is cleaner than the traditional coal-fired process used in power plants because pollutants can be removed during power generation, according to the Department of Energy. Gasification is a thermo-chemical process where coal or other carbon-based feedstocks are treated under high heat and pressure with steam so that they break down into what's called syngas, which contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide. That syngas is then burned to run an electricity turbine.
In the planned projects in China, GE and Shenhua expect to build integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) facilities in China, including a commercial-scale plant that separates out carbon dioxide for underground storage.
Because the U.S. and China rely heavily on coal for power generation, policy makers say that carbon capture and storage at coal plants is an important technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.
The U.S. Trade Development Agency will said it will fund the "initial steps" toward a plant in China based on GE technology.
The president of GE's Power and Water business, Steve Bolze, said in a statement that additional plants with coal gasification and carbon storage are needed to scale up the industry and lower costs.