Enel to start major plant conversion to coal 2011
FUSINA Italy (Reuters) - Italy's largest utility Enel SpA aims to start converting a major oil-fueled power plant to use clean coal technology next year as part of its drive to cut carbon emissions, its CEO said on Monday.
The conversion of the Porto Tolle plant, on the River Po in the north-east of Italy about 100 km from Venice, is expected to start next March to June, subject to final approval from the Industry Ministry, Fulvio Conti said.
"The authorization process for Porto Tolle is coming to a completion," Conti said at the official start of commercial production at the innovative hydrogen-fueled combined cycle power plant at Fusina in the vast industrial area near Venice.
"We are waiting for the Industry Ministry to issue a decree which will allow us to start works in March-June," Conti said.
Coal-fired plants are a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, but Enel says it would use a clean carbon technology at the Porto Tolle plant and work on developing carbon capture and storage facilities there to reduce its CO2 footprint.
It would take 5 years to start up the first unit of the converted Porto Tolle plant after the works would have begun. The plant's capacity will be cut to 1,980 megawatts from the current 2,640 MW under the conversion.
In the first quarter of this year, Enel produced 37 percent of its electricity in Italy at coal-fired plants.
Enel says its 50 million euro ($62.98 million) plant in Fusina is the first industrial-scale facility of the kind in the world.
It has a total capacity of 16 megawatts and will generate about 60 million kilowatt hours which is enough to meet the needs of 20,000 households and avoids emission of more than 17,000 metric tonnes of CO2 a year.
Conti said power produced at the plant is 5-6 times more expensive than conventional electricity but Enel is working to reduce the costs to be able to expand in hydrogen-fueled power generation.
The plant uses 1.3 metric tonnes of hydrogen per hour which it gets from a nearby petrochemical complex run by Italy's oil and gas major Eni where the gas is produced as a by-product of a manufacturing process, Enel said.
Conti said it would take decades to create technology to start producing hydrogen, not as a by-product, at competitive costs.
The plant has a 42-percent efficiency and is free of any emissions, Enel said in a statement.
(Writing by Svetlana Kovalyova and Nigel Tutt)