Carbon capture was unheard of fifteen years ago, even though people were doing research within the field. Today Powerspan announced a $50 million financing round for the deployment of its carbon dioxide capture technology for coal-fired electric power plants.

According to the Coal Utilization Research Council (CURC), different coals may require different carbon capture solutions. It also emphasizes that retrofit solutions will be more costly than new plant solutions due to space limitations and relatively low initial power plant efficiencies.

The Portsmouth, N.H. Powerspan, however, is going to pilot test a 120-megawatt commercial scale power plant in North Dakota. The plant will be online in 2012. And it's currently running a 1-megawatt pilot plant in Southeastern Ohio. Powerspan's technology will capture 90 percent of the CO2 emitted by the plant, the company said, and the commercial-scale project is set to capture one million tons of CO2 going into enhanced oil recovery operations.

Coal power accounts for about 50 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S., while in China and India the number is even higher. The technology for capturing CO2 and storing it – or using it for processes such as enhanced oil recovery, bio fuel or mineralization – is still considered an expensive and not fully-tested method of decreasing carbon emissions. But early players in the field may get an advantage if they move in first.

"We view our financial commitment to Powerspan as a sound investment in a promising CO2 capture technology along with an opportunity to learn more about that cutting-edge technology as we explore future development projects in the energy industry," said Mike Lebens, President and CEO of Tenaska's Engineering & Operations Group, one of the new investors, in a statement.

The new investors also include George Soros, AllianceBernstein LP and Persimmon Tree Capital LP. Returning investors are NGEN Partners LLC, The Beacon Group, The Tremont Group, RockPort Capital Partners LP, Calvert, Angeleno Group, Fluor Corporation and FirstEnergy Corp.

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