First, the best "technology" is energy efficiency and renewables. Using less fossil fuel is the most cost effective way to improve our health, create jobs, and keep our electric rates low. Coal Gasification is a new technology for burning coal that results in lower air emissions and future capture of carbon dioxide. There are many gasification plants around the world including 2 generating electricity in the US. The Department of Energy is currently encouraging this technology with federal funding and there are quite a few proposals for new coal-burning gasification electricity plants in the U.S. KCPL is proposing an old-fashioned pulverized coal plant.


[Fri Oct 22 2004]

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- An energy company wants to build a 500-megawatt coal gasification power plant and mine that could bring hundreds of jobs to the region and provide a glimpse of technology that could revitalize the Southern Illinois coal industry.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois Clean Coal Review Board are expected to announce up to $10 million in grants to fund two projects that will make use of clean coal technology aimed at increasing the production and use of Southern Illinois coal, said John W. Thompson of the Clean Air Task Force.

One of those projects would be located in Southern Illinois and involves the construction of a mine and power plant utilizing integrated gasification combined cycle technology. Such technology provides a more efficient way of ridding Illinois coal of pollutants before burning.

The approximately $2 billion plant and mine would be located about 10 to 12 miles northeast of Marion, near the Franklin-Williamson County line.

The review board agreed at a September meeting to award $2.5 million to Madison Power Corp. for the project, while the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is expected to kick in another $2.5 million, according to Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, also a member of the review board.

The funds would be used to conduct a front-end engineering and design study on the project that will take about a year to complete. If the feasibility and financing of the project can be secured, the mine and plant could be built in about four years.

What makes this project different from some of the other mine-to-mouth plants are the players involved. According to its Web site, Madison Power Corp. is a "power plant acquisition and development company with specialized expertise in the financing, the development, and the commercial and technical due diligence of power generation projects."

The Web site also reports Madison has "teamed up with a large equity fund to pursue the Williamson County Coal Project, a 500 MW nominal, mine-mouth, coal-fired power project located in southern Illinois. The Project will be owned by a group of Midwest public utilities."

US DOE gives Southern $235 mln for coal-gas plant

Thu Oct 21, 2004 03:06 PM ET

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Southern Co. (SO.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , a major electric utility in four Southern states, will receive a $235 million federal grant to build a coal gasification plant in Florida, the U.S. Energy Department announced on Thursday.

The plant will be located near Orlando and will cost a total of $557 million in federal and private funds to complete, the department said in a statement.

When it is ready in 2010, the plant will demonstrate combined cycle technology in which a coal-derived gas replaces natural gas to generate 285 megawatts of electricity.

Gas from the coal is first passed through a gas turbine to generate electricity, then the hot gas leaving the turbine is used to heat water to produce steam to power a steam turbine and generate electricity a second time, the Energy Department said.

Atlanta-based Southern said the technology is based on transport gasifier equipment that the company developed at a facility in Alabama.

The transport gasifier is efficient and cost-effective when handling low rank coal, as well as coals with high moisture or high ash content, Southern said in a statement.

The $235 million in federal funding is part of a government program to cut emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from coal-fired electricity plants.

Southern has more than 4 million customers and nearly 39,000 megawatts of generating capacity.

CU explores cleaner coal-burning plant

Federal money may help test gasification technology.

Springfield News Leader
Published December 20, 2004
by Wes Johnson

It sounds almost too good to be true: transforming raw coal into a clean-burning synthetic gas that generates electricity much more efficiently than existing coal-burning power plants. The process creates less pollution and more easily captures the harmful stuff than existing plants, according to the Department of Energy.

And its waste products ? sulfuric acid, elemental sulfur and a stable form of coal ash ? can be sold on the open market.

Those are some of the reasons why Springfield City Utilities is quietly exploring whether a coal-gasification plant might be a viable alternative to building another coal-burning plant to meet Springfield's growing demand for energy.

There's particular interest in an "integrated coal gasification combined cycle" plant because the Department of Energy ? under certain conditions ? could pay up to half the cost of building such a plant.

"Yes, that's one of the technologies we'd be very interested in," said Duane Galloway, CU's environmental relations and government affairs manager.

Incentives possible

Galloway has been in contact with representatives of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt and Sen. Kit Bond about possible federal backing for such a plant.

At a recent CU board retreat, Galloway said President Bush intends to spend $2 billion on clean-coal technology. (What if we spent that much investing in energy efficiency?SB)

Whether CU could tap into those funds for an IGCC plant remains unknown.

The DOE already has its eye on coal gasification technology, Tom Sarkus said.

"IGCC is a priority ? we think it's the wave of the future," said Sarkus, division director for advanced energy systems at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

"We have so much coal that's readily accessible to us, and that's why the president and the Department of Energy are making clean coal technology a very high priority."

According to DOE projections, there are enough known coal reserves in the United States to power the country for up to 300 years.

Finding a way to convert that coal into clean electrical energy is a major research goal at the DOE, Sarkus said.

He said more than half of America's electric power comes from 1,100 coal-burning plants, like CU's Southwest Power Station and James River Power Station.

They make electricity by directly burning pulverized coal to heat water into steam. That high-pressure steam then spins a turbine attached to a large generator that creates electricity.

A combined cycle gasification plant is more complex.

It mixes coal with nearly pure oxygen, heats it under pressure, and creates "syngas," a flammable blend of carbon monoxide and oxygen.

The syngas is burned in a large turbine, which spins a generator to make electricity.

The combined-cycle unit then goes one step further. It captures that hot turbine exhaust to turn water into steam, which spins another turbine linked to a generator.

More of the coal's energy is captured that way ? significantly more, Sarkus said.

More efficient

The nation's 1,100 coal-burning units, on average, turn 33 percent of the coal's energy into electricity.

IGCC units potentially could convert nearly 50 percent of coal's energy into electric power, he said.

Only four IGCC plants are operating in the United States, and they operate with 38 to 40 percent efficiency. Those efficiencies will go up as better technology comes along. (There are about 130 plants worldwide, although some produce chemicals in addition to or instead of electricity.SB)

All four IGCC plants were partially funded by the DOE as test projects to further coal gasification technology. (DOE is funding a new plant in Florida and Illinois is funding a plant outside St. Louis. SB)

The closest plant to Springfield ? Wabash River Coal Gasification Project in West Terre Haute, Ind. ? cost $438 million to build.

The DOE paid half the amount because the plant tested several new IGCC design concepts.

Sarkus said an IGCC plant would cost up to 20 percent more to build than a conventional coal-burning plant. That extra cost has deterred many utilities from considering such a plant.(Legal testimony given in Utah says "...the cost of a new coal IGCC unit is competitive with the cost of a new well-controlled pulverized coal unit.SB)

But if Springfield can submit a proposal that would test a new aspect of IGCC technology, it might qualify for DOE funding, he said.

Store CO2?

One way CU might meet that research requirement is by testing a way to store carbon dioxide, a "greenhouse gas" linked to global warming.

While many nations have signed an agreement to begin limiting CO2 emissions, President Bush has refused out of concern it would harm the U.S. economy by forcing companies to spend millions on CO2-collection technology.

But Sarkus and Galloway said they believe some kind of CO2 controls are inevitable.

"If we get a CO2 law, our industry is going to have to find a way to deal with it," said Galloway.

One concept that might lure federal funding for an IGCC plant: Inject CO2 deep into the ground.

"We're looking at the geologic layer below Springfield as a possible place to sequester that gas," Galloway said.(I'm not an expert, but this does not sound like a good idea to me. Using energy more efficiently/renewales is still the best and cheapest way to get less CO2. SB)

Sarkus said finding a way to deal with CO2 is a DOE priority that drew no proposals from utilities in the most recent round of funding requests.

"The next round will be in a year and a half, and this would be a very good time for Springfield to start working on a proposal like that," Sarkus said.

CU Board Chairman Geoff Butler said CU will be exploring every option for meeting Springfield's growing need for power. A coal gasification plant isn't out of the question, he said.

"If the feds are willing to throw in $250 million on a gasification plant, that might be something we'd accept as an alternative" to building another coal-burning facility, Butler said.

Kansas' location good for zero-emissions plant

By KAREN DILLON The Kansas City Star
Posted on Mon, Dec. 06, 2004

It's the one giant coal-fired power plant that everyone seems to want.

Kansas and about a dozen other states are trying hard to win FutureGen - a $1 billion pioneering plant that pumps carbon dioxide deep into the ground instead of into the atmosphere.

"It looks like an awfully good project," said Drew Malcomb, a public affairs specialist for the fossil energy program at the federal Department of Energy, which is overseeing it.

If it is successful, which we have every indication it will be, it is going to be a watershed event in both the energy world and in the environmentalists' world because it is the best of both.

This is cake and the icing too.

Instead of burning coal, the zero-emissions plant uses a process in which coal is turned into a synthetic gas. Hydrogen is drawn off and used to generate electricity, power hydrogen cars and could provide fuel for future uses.

The process also produces carbon dioxide, and the larger novelty of the plant is depositing the carbon dioxide underground. U.S. Department of Energy officials think three types of underground storage can be used: oil reservoirs, coal seams and deep saline aquifers.

"You will capture it, compress it to the point it becomes liquid and pump it underground where it won't ever bother us again," said Alex Silver, a vice president at Black & Veatch, an international engineering firm based in Kansas City and a member of a Kansas working group on FutureGen.

Coal-fired power plants have come under heavy criticism because the emissions from burning coal nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide are thought to contribute to global warming.

The first two pollutants are under increasingly tighter restrictions by the federal government. But carbon dioxide is not yet regulated by the federal government although a single power plant emits millions of tons each year.

Research on pumping carbon dioxide into the ground already is being conducted near Russell, where carbon dioxide created at an ethanol plant is being injected into oil reservoirs, state officials said. The carbon dioxide can be used to remove oil that couldn't be pumped out with an oil derrick, an added benefit that would allow Kansas to increase its oil production if it got the plant.

"They have gotten the easier stuff, and have to work a little harder to get the rest of it," Silver said.

It's estimated that Kansas has used up about 50 percent of its oil reserves, and that the process could recover 25 percent.

Although competition for the plant is expected to be rigorous, state officials think Kansas has some attributes that other states may not have.

"Kansas has a leg up," said Tim Carr, head of the energy research section at the Kansas Geological Survey.

Because the state was once a leader in oil and gas production, it has large underground reservoirs left behind after the deposits were depleted. Once the carbon dioxide is pressurized, it can be poured into them.

The state also has an advantage in its large network of pipelines that was laid for the oil and gas industry. Some of those pipelines might be used or additional ones could be built with little problem because the state already owns the right of way.

In addition, the state's location and proximity to one of the country's largest rail hubs makes it easier to ship a variety of coal from around the country for testing.

"It would be a benefit to the entire nation," said Silver. But Kansas has two major drawbacks.

It doesn't have well-placed congressional leadership fighting for it, state officials say.

A spokesman for Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said the state hasn't yet asked for assistance but Tiahrt would be ready to back Kansas' effort.

And Kansas doesn't have a seat among the industry giants that have formed a coalition to partner with the government on the plant. Members include American Electric Power, Kennecott Energy and Peabody Energy.

"We don't have the big boys," Carr said.

Still, he said, Kansas is working to put together a consortium of small and midsize utilities to try to garner a seat.

Other states expected to bid on the project include West Virginia, which has mine shafts and strong political backing from Sen. Robert Byrd; Illinois, which has an aggressive financial package and strong congressional leadership; and Texas, which has allocated $10 million from its general fund as an incentive and is the president's home state.

Other states include Ohio, Montana, North Dakota, Florida, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and Kentucky.

Kansas, too, has a financial incentive after the legislature on unanimous votes put through a bill this past spring that would allow the state to issue bonds for the plant.

Even if Kansas doesn't win the plant, Kansas City could see some of the benefits because Black & Veatch and Burns & McDonnell Engineering, also locally based, already are in discussions with alliance members about the project.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, with President Bush's support, first announced the project early last year.

Abraham, who resigned last month, said that because of the large supplies of coal in the United States, coal will be a primary source of energy for hundreds of years to come.

The prototype plant would be 275 megawatts, and cost nearly $1 billion. The government hopes to select a bidder by the end of 2005 and make the plant operational within 10 years.

The federal government would pay 75 percent to 80 percent and industry, in a partnership with the government, would foot the rest.

A consortium of the largest industry corporations, FutureGen Alliance, has formed and is currently drawing up an agreement with the Energy Department.

Funding could become clear as early as February and jumpstart the project, said Henry Cialone, a vice president at Battelle Memorial Institute, which is coordinating the FutureGen Alliance.

Even environmentalists want the project to happen and are raising concerns that the timetable is too drawn out.

"I would prefer to see a more crash effort to see that a project like this is up and running quicker," said Frank O'Donnell, executive director of the Clean Air Trust, a non-profit advocacy group. The climate is getting warmer, and coal burning is a very big piece of that, and coal burning is likely to increase in the future.

"I think we need to find a way to make coal a modern fuel, so something like this is going to be crucial to make that happen."

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