Mississippi ‘Clean Coal’ Project Flops

By Nathaniel Scharping | July 3, 2017 1:30 pm
The Kemper power plant. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Kemper power plant. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A once-promising clean coal plant in Mississippi is set to switch to natural gas instead.

The facility, run by utility provider Southern Company, is over budget and behind schedule, and has failed to achieve its goal of producing electricity from coal with significantly reduced carbon emissions. A review by the Mississippi Public Service Commission gave the plant until July 6 to begin planning its future and recommended a switch to natural gas, reports the New York Times. 

Small Success Not Enough

The plant has actually been burning natural gas for three years now as engineers attempted to perfect a design that would take dirty lignite coal from a nearby mine and scrub it of carbon dioxide after burning. While they captured a small amount of carbon, the unproven technology they were attempting to implement turned out to be too costly and complicated to put into action. The project was launched in 2010 and is now $4 billion over budget and three years behind schedule. In its decision, the state also placed much of the financial burden on Southern Company’s shareholders, as opposed to customers, something the utility has said it will fight in court.

The original plan was to rely on a process called “gasification” to convert coal into natural gas that would then be burned. Natural gas burns much cleaner than coal, and the technology would have resulted in an estimated 65 percent reduction in emissions over a traditional lignite coal plant. In all, only about 92,000 tons of carbon dioxide have been captured (a coal plant produces roughly three million tons of gas annually).

Few Wins For Clean Coal

The news is a major setback for proponents of clean coal, who hope that the fuel will continue to be a major source of energy for the nation. Coal currently accounted for roughly 30 percent of the U.S.’ energy production profile in 2015, although that number has been dropping steadily. Other clean coal plants exist, and one in Texas, the W.A. Parish Generating Station, recently came online. Carbon capture technology is estimated to contain 90 percent of the emissions from the plant, although it has only been put in place on one of ten generating units there, according to Clean Technica. In addition, the equipment requires additional power to run, further lowering the total reductions to carbon emissions.

The relative benefits of clean coal have been debated for some time, and the argument hinges on whether renewable energy sources can shoulder a larger share of energy production. Though renewables are getting both cheaper and more widespread, they have a significant amount of ground to make up before they will be able to compete with fossil fuels. Natural gas has already overtaken coal as a main source of electricity production in the United States, and although it is has been traditionally more expensive, a glut of low prices could further entrench its position as the dominant energy source.

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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    lignite coal ” Are we to hallucinate the project was not designed to fail? “ scrub it of carbon dioxide after burning” Thermodynamics demands at least 30% of the thermal output be consumed in “scrubbing” and “sequestering” combustion CO2. Thermodynamic design feeds the combustion chamber pure oxygen. The hot effluent then passes through combined cycle stages of further energy recovery, each one sequentially more more damned by the Second Law, before being “scrubbed” and “sequestered.”

    A one gigawatt coal-fired power plant burns 538 tonnes/hr of high grade coal 24/7, 28.5 million pounds of coal/day. A state-of-the-art, integrated gasification combined cycle coal power plant emits 726 tonnes of CO2/GW-hr. Social intent that bottom line.

    Terminate all street lighting to Save the Earth. PV = energy, 101.325 J/liter-atm. Calculate the energy contained within all pneumatic tires – and ban them. Burn coal, generate $0.005/kwhr electricity. Tell the Third World to stop breathing. This is not their planet to parasitize – it’s ours.

  • OWilson

    Meanwhile, The World’s Three Largest Solar Power Companies recently went bankrupt and took some $25,000,000,000.00 in U.S. Taxpayer money with them.

    Sun Edison
    ABENGOA
    Solyndra

    Anybody interested in following where that money went? ….hello…..anybody?

    And where is FNN on this?, oh yeah the tweeting stuff!

    • Anthony Fabian

      In Abengoa’s case, its signature American projects still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government, and the company benefited heavily from subsidies in Spain. But its solar thermal projects have been slow to turn a profit and generate little income in the interim, amplifying its cash squeeze.

      SunEdison has received “the vast majority” of a $1 billion credit line the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. extended to India.

      The Energy Department gave Solyndra a conditional guarantee for $535 million, in multiple stages, contingent on reaching a variety of milestones, and to date, it had received $527 million.
      From the data I found on the internet, here is the $ amount that originated from the US government is in the neighborhood of $3.5 Billion. Where do you get the $25 billion figure from. (no need provide all the 000’s)

      • OWilson

        The cite I had totaled up all the taxpayer subsidies from all the Federal, State, and Foreign Agencies, not just the specific “U.S.Federal Government”, for all three companies.

        Abengoa was Europe based. They left some $20,000,000,000.00 billion in debt alone.

        Google periodically “sanitizes” their articles, so I can’t find my original source so I will defer to you and expand my definition of taxpayers to Europe and the rest of the world!

        I did incidentally find another major solar company ABOUTSOLAR that went down also with at least $500,000,000.00 million in subsidies.

        A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money, and that’s why I like to put it in terms of the taxpayers budget parameters. Zeros are very important in their lives!

  • OWilson

    Love those pop up ads that move you away from the article while you are typing, and use your unintended keystrokes to take you away to the land of cyber Fake News!

    Small price to pay, though, for interesting articles that allow unfettered free speech.

    Thank you!

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