2014 a big year for clean coal too

Kemper County power plant construction (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kemper_Project_Construction.png)

Kemper County power plant construction
(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kemper_Project_Construction.png)

We know that 2014 is supposed to be a make-or-break year for cellulosic ethanol, with multiple new biorefineries recently or soon-to-be completed in order to fulfill RIN demand mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard.  According to a recent Bloomberg article, this year might also be a turning-point year for ‘clean coal’:

Coal’s Best Hope is Costly New Power Plant in Mississippi

Coming in the wake of the proposed new EPA rules requiring a net 30% reduction in US power sector greenhouse gas emissions, the article profiles a new clean coal facility under construction by Southern Co. in Kemper County, Mississippi.  It’s the only major new coal plant currently being built in the country, and is scheduled to come online by the end of the year.  Some system highlights for the nerds out there (additional gory details available from POWER magazine):

  • will be fueled with lignite, the lowest grade of coal, from new mine established adjacent to the plant
  • the plant is an Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle (IGCC) pre-combustion CO2 capture & storage (CCS) design
    • low-quality coal is gasified to a synthetic CO-rich gas, and the water-gas shift reaction is then used to push it towards H2 & CO2
    • 65% of the CO2 is removed and piped into local oil fields at a rate of 3.5 Mt/year to enhance oil production
    • NOx/SOx precursors are scrubbed out as well, reducing final plant emissions
    • the synthetic gas is combusted in a gas turbine, and waste heat from the turbine, gasifier, and gas cleanup equipment drives an additional steam cycle
    • efficiencies for similat IGCC+CCS systems are estimated in the low 30% range
  • the capacity of ~600 MW is just a little smaller than our local Rawhide Energy Station; the mass of coal consumed by the plant every day is ~15 times more than the daily biomass consumption of the new Abengoa, Poet, or DuPont biorefineries
  • after many cost overruns the plant is on track to be one of the most expensive of its size ever constructed, with final costs coming in around $7/W, compared to about $1/W for natural gas or $5.50/W for nuclear

Us bioenergy folks should be paying particular attention to these CCS developments- the recent IPCC report strongly emphasized role of bioenergy+CCS technology (BECCS) in stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and there are already some pilot projects underway (the biggest of which is ~1/4 the size of the Kemper plant).

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6 Responses to 2014 a big year for clean coal too

  1. Paul says:

    Nice summary! As we both know, burning biomass is not without its difficulties! Does the IPCC propose a way forward for that?

  2. John says:

    Not sure, haven’t read the relevant sections yet. The BECCS pilot plants that are popping up are sequestering fermentation CO2 from ethanol production, though, not biomass combustion emissions…

  3. Paul says:

    So these BECCS plants – what are they burning?

  4. John says:

    BECCS just implies taking a CO2 by-product from any kind of bioenergy system and pumping it into the ground. While there’s a lot of interest in the future for doing biopower (i.e. biomass combustion or gasification for electricity production) BECCS, right now all the work is in first-generation ethanol BECCS, i.e., taking the 1/3 of the C in your corn feedstock that is released as CO2 during fermentation to ethanol and sequestering that. This is apparently simpler to implement than other CCS technologies because the fermentation CO2 comes out as a pure stream that doesn’t require a bunch of expensive gas separation steps before getting pumped underground.

    • John says:

      And like any other corn ethanol plant, these guys probably use natural gas to generate their process heat for fermentation and distillation (though it’s possible that they could use coal or cellulosic biomass instead).

  5. Pingback: 2014 a big year for clean coal too | Ragnarok Connection

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