Politicians who talk about the future of “clean coal” as part of the U.S. energy mix need look no farther than the Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi to see both the promise and the peril that the technology has to offer.
Kemper is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over the $2.2-billion cost estimate given in 2010 when construction began. And a recent financial analysis paints a dim picture of the plant’s potential for profit.
A decade ago, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) was heralded as the enabler of a continued and even expanded use of coal for electric power generation. The process starts by turning coal into synthesis gas, a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syn gas can then be cleaned of impurities, and burned to drive a turbine. Excess heat goes to power steam turbine. Dozens of U.S. projects were proposed. Equipment manufacturers and engineering firms alike focused resources to developing the technology.
Southern Company, whose utility business units operate 44,000 megawatts of installed capacity and generate electricity for 9 million customers across the southern United States, saw an opportunity for IGCC at a location in Kemper County, Miss. Read more.