CIUDEN - Spain's city of energy

Organisation: CIUDEN

There was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in evidence when I visited the CO2 capture pilot facility CIUDEN has established in the North West of Spain. The day of my visit, the pulverised coal (PC) boiler was nearing the end of its first twenty four hour test and the CO2 Capture Programme Technical Director Pedro Otero had had a late night sorting out a few problems.

Fernando Torrecilla, CIUDEN's Director of International Communication, was busy organising a press conference for the Spanish national media to present the newly opened centre to the public. When I visited, Mr Otero and the rest of the staff had only just moved into the new purpose built complex, comprising control room, labs and offices, where engineers and technicians can all work together on the experimental programme.

Mr Otero was keen to get across to me the potential of the technology development plant (TDP) as a test bed for oxyfuel CO2 capture. The facility is designed to be extremely flexible in the range of experiments that can be conducted. It is basically an oxyfuel combustion test bed, but it incorporates two separate boilers, one 20MW pulverized coal (PC) and the other up to 30MW circulating fluidized bed (CFB).

It is also designed to use a range of different coals, with a versatile fuel preparation unit incorporating two hoppers that can take different types and be mixed to produce more variety. There is also a 3MW biomass gasifier. The aim is to test the flexibility of the boilers for oxy-combustion  and CO2 capture with a range of different fuel types.

The TDP will be available for any company or institution to use to conduct their own R&D work. As a non-profit organization, CIUDEN will only charge for the running costs, the coal and other expenses.


Ciudad de la Energia (CIUDEN), meaning city of energy, was founded five years ago to promote economic development through activities related to energy and the environment in the relatively poor region of El Bierzo in North West Spain. It is leading Spain's carbon capture and storage research efforts, with programmes covering the whole CCS chain, as well as founding a National Museum of Energy and collaborating with universities on post-graduate training.

The El Bierzo region has long been associated with heavy industry, including coal mining and power production. The site of the CO2 capture technology development plant (TDP) in Cubillos del Sil is next to the oldest operating power station in Spain, Endesa's Compostilla II plant. Going back even further, the Romans extracted gold in an area known as Las Medulas, now a popular tourist attraction, where they used water brought from over 100km away to explode the rocks under pressure.

Public outreach

As a public institution, CIUDEN benefits from a closer and probably more trusting relationship with the general population than a large company, and its efforts at public outreach seem to have met with greater success than in some other places, where large multinationals have received a relatively hostile reception.

Mr Torrecilla boasts that the research facility is widely supported because of their outreach programmes. Only a few weeks before, they invited anyone from the area and the nearby city of Ponferrada to come and take a look, and over one thousand people came and walked around the site.

National Museum of Energy

CIUDEN also manages a public education project which will become a National Museum of Energy (NME). The NME is another part of CIUDEN's public outreach agenda to educate and inform and thereby gain more support for its activities.

It will be housed in three buildings including the former Compostilla I and MSP power stations. The Compostilla building will house the main visitor's area focused on universal energy concepts. The MSP complex will explain the extraction and use of coal for power generation. The Foundation has an ambitious goal of attracting 250,000 visitors to the site each year.

The first site, Ene.térmica, opened in July 2011 and will offer free activities over the summer including guided tours, visits and workshops for children explaining the role of coal in energy-generation and energy in everyday life.

The CO2 Capture Technology Development Plant

The aim of the plant is to first validate the full chain of processes from fuel preparation to CO2 purification, producing a CO2 stream ready for transport and storage, then produce data for scaling-up the PC, CFB, FGD (flue gas de-sulphurization) and CPU (compression and purification unit) technologies.

As a publicly funded project, the pilot had to go through a difficult procurement process for the different elements of the plant. Coordinating the over 30 suppliers has been one of the major challenges until now. Although the principal providers are large multi-nationals, many were small Spanish companies that were not always used to working with others on such a large project.

Also the large technology providers were not always so keen to make time for what they saw as a small-scale project. For example the FGD unit for the project has a budget of say €4 million. For a full size power station such as Compostilla the cost would be €120 or €150 million. The engineering work to be done is the same for the small as the big one.

The CIUDEN team have developed a close relationship with their boiler technology provider Foster Wheeler, whose Finnish engineering team are often present on site, and who will be in charge of the experimental programme for the CFB boiler. Also with Air Liquide, who will supply the CPU.

Knowledge transfer

Bringing together many people from different backgrounds and with different levels of experience makes the centre an ideal place for knowledge transfer. It is one of the aims of CIUDEN that the centre will act as a training academy to prepare the next generation of engineers in Spain with specific knowledge in the CCS field.

While I was there, a meeting was taking place at Leon University in Spain on a collaboration agreement for training not just in CO2 capture but over the whole CCS field.

This is ideal, as some of the equipment at the centre will not yet be in operating power stations, such as the CO2 capture and compression unit and it is only in such places that it will be possible to gain experience with operating it.

Knowledge gained from the pilot experiments will of course be shared with the CCS community, although CIUDEN has some specific agreements with technology providers that some developments will remain proprietary.

OXYCFB300 demonstration project

The current pilot installation will contribute to Phase I of the Compostilla OXYCFB300 project, which is one of the seven demonstrations funded through the EU Energy Programme for Recovery. As well as the capture TDP, transport and storage pilots are under way to test the full chain before progressing to a full scale demonstration in Phase II.

Phase 2 of the project is to build a full scale 300MW CFB demonstration plant on the same site. The final investment decision for the project will be made mid 2012, based on the knowledge and results obtained in the Phase 1 technology demonstrations.