Capturing carbon offers alternative approach to environmental issue

Development, testing and implementing processes to control the release of carbon at coal-fired powered plants is vital to achieving our nation’s environmental stewardship objectives and addressing the issue of climate change. By capturing the carbon dioxide byproduct at these plants, fewer emissions are released into the atmosphere, and the potential for sustainable applications, such as feeding algae systems for producing biofuels, could be pursued.

In central Illinois, large-scale testing of carbon capture technology is being pursued at a 230-megawatt, coal-fired plant. Hanson and a consultant have teamed up to provide the design and construction documents for the infrastructure that will support the carbon capture facility. Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the University of Illinois’ Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is leading the site evaluation, involving scientists and engineers from internationally renowned research and production companies.

The facility will occupy an approximate 0.5-acre site next to the power plant. Flue gases will be drawn from the breaching that runs between the power plant and the stack. These gases will then pass through the process for carbon extraction and be reintroduced into a point downstream in the breaching. Steam, power, water and other utilities that support the process will be supplied to the test facility from the power plant, and the consultant working with Hanson will source and route these utilities.

We have contributed to this project by providing site surveying, geotechnical, civil, and structural engineering for the conceptualization and infrastructure design. We used drone photogrammetry and terrestrial lidar mapping to collect data for critical points — more than 125 feet above ground — at the existing power plant structure. We sampled and tested soil and rock to determine the parameters for the foundation designs, seismic design parameters, resistivity analyses (for grounding design) and assessment of the soil’s corrosion potential. Working with the plant’s operations personnel, we established location constraints to minimize traffic interruptions around the plant and maintain the necessary clearances between the carbon capture facility and the plant’s high voltage transmission lines. We designed the sanitary and storm sewer for the testing site and the bridges and modifications to the plant’s existing towers to carry the flue gas ducts and utilities between the power plant and the carbon capture facility.

And if this site is selected by the DOE next year to develop as a test site, we’ll be ready to provide construction administration.

To learn more about Hanson’s work on this project, contact Gary Clack at


Posted on December 14, 2020