Archive for December, 2009

Everything’s bigger in Texas – including clean coal technology

The University of Texas (UT) at Austin is one of the largest public universities in the United States and also quite active in clean coal technology research. The school recently received millions in federal, state and private grants to:

• Develop sequestration technology training projects

• Help create a skilled workforce for the emerging carbon capture and storage industry and build public awareness of the technology’s societal benefits

• Identify state-owned areas in the Gulf of Mexico where carbon dioxide can be stored safely and economically

• Create economical technology to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-based power plants

In October 2007, the Bureau of Economic Geology at UT received a 10-year, $38 million subcontract to conduct the first large-scale U.S. test of underground sequestration of CO2.

Coincidentally, we recently heard from UT research scientist Susan Hovorka on her sequestration project in Mississippi—which has resulted in the successful storage of one million tons of CO2.

Given that Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other state, it’s not surprising that they’re at the forefront of new technologies that can ensure coal’s continued use while reducing emissions.

Hats off to the University of Texas — their research and discipline will be critical to clean energy development for years to come.

Happy holidays from ACCCE

The next big thing in clean coal: White coal technology


At ACCCE, we love hearing about different kinds of cutting-edge clean coal technologies. From geologic sequestration to carbon dioxide-eating algae, it seems like breakthroughs in next-generation technologies are happening all the time.

One kind of technology we’re particularly excited about is “white coal,” a new pre-combustion process developed by White Coal Energy. It was recently profiled in the American Coal Council’s American Coal magazine.

The article, titled “Realizing a Cleaner Coal,” written by White Energy Coal President Judy Tanselle, describes the benefits of her company’s breakthrough process. White coal technology accelerates the maturation of lower-grade coals to produce a cleaner, more usable and more efficient grade of coal.

Here’s how it works: by crushing and drying low-value coal, the process produces a high-density, high-energy coal that has the ability to increase boiler efficiency, decrease plant outages and reduce carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions.

White Energy announced plans to develop its first coal-upgrading facility in the U.S. in partnership with Buckskin Mining, and the $80 million project near Gillette, Wyo., is expected to be fully operational by 2010.

Between growing global energy demand and our collective goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s clear that this technology could be an important tool in our clean technology arsenal. Learn more about white coal technology in the first issue of American Coal magazine by the American Coal Council.

Texas Clean Energy Project to sell captured CO2

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would contribute $350 million to Summit Power Group’s Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP), one of the 100-plus programs we recently added to the America’s PowerSM Clean Coal Technology Map.

Once completed, the Odessa, Texas, facility will have the capacity to produce 400 megawatts of coal-generated electricity, enough to power 400,000 homes.

The best part is that it will effectively capture 90 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions. And according to the TCEP Web site, the first-of-its-kind project “will capture more carbon than any power generation facility of commercial scale yet operating anywhere in the world.”

The plant will use an impressive host of technologies to achieve this goal, including a combination of integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and carbon capture technology to trap carbon dioxide emissions, which will be injected deep underground in the nearby Permian Basin in a process called enhanced oil recovery.

For more on clean coal technology projects in your state, take a look at our map. With $11 billion in research in more than 40 states, there’s bound to be a cutting-edge project near you.

More than meets the eye

ScreenHunter_13 Dec. 22 12.50 By now, most of you have seen pictures of power plants around the country with stacks emitting large plumes of “something” into the air. But do you actually know what that something is?

If you guessed water vapor, you’re right. And in fact, when you see those plumes from a working power plant, you are likely witnessing clean coal technologies in action. More specifically, you are likely watching a scrubber at work.

As Progress Energy describes on its Web site, a scrubber works like this:

As coal is used in a power plant, it emits gases through the flue, or stack. Scrubbers work by taking this flue gas and passing it through a tower in which a water and limestone mixture is sprayed. The sulfur dioxide in the flue gas reacts with the limestone to produce gypsum, a useful additive to concrete or for the production of wallboard. The remaining water vapor rises from the stack.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. has “mountains of limestone,” which, under the right conditions, absorb sulfur gases like a sponge.

As part of the 2009 Factuality Tour, we set out to learn more about these types of scrubbers. We did exactly that at We Energies’ Pleasant Prairie Power Plant (dubbed P4 by employees), which has the lowest emissions rate of any coal-based electricity plant in Wisconsin.

Take a look to see Ed Morris, senior engineer for We Energies, explain their scrubber technologies, as well as their carbon capture pilot project.

As you can see, scrubbers play an important role in reducing emissions from coal-generated plants — and are an excellent example of how the large-scale deployment of clean coal technologies can keep our most abundant, reliable and affordable fuel source in the mix.

U.S. government stands behind FutureGen

In case you missed the news, we recently added more than 100 new projects to the America’s PowerSM Clean Coal Technology Map. One of those projects, FutureGen in Mattoon, Ill., is one we’ve been excited about since it was announced.

Why is it a big deal? Because once it’s completed, this public-private partnership will be the world’s first coal-powered near-zero emissions power plant using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

In June, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would contribute $1.073 billion
to the project, with $1 billion coming from Recovery Act funds for CCS research.
That’s a significant portion of the cost, which according to the FutureGen Alliance is estimated to be $1.5 billion – proving the Obama administration is serious about deploying CCS technology on a commercial scale.

According to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, “This important step forward for FutureGen reflects this administration’s commitment to rapidly developing carbon capture and sequestration technology as part of a comprehensive plan to create jobs, develop clean energy and reduce climate change pollution.”

And remember, you can learn more about FutureGen on our Factuality Tour Web site. We’ve got great interviews, photos, blog posts and videos of the good work the Alliance is doing to push this project forward.

Updated CCT map shows additional $5 billion investment

Here at ACCCE, we’ve said many times that advanced clean coal technologies will play a key role in our clean energy future. That’s why we’re so proud to announce the updated America’s Power SM clean coal technology (CCT) map, to which we’ve added more than 100 new projects across the United States.

New data shows that the government and private sector have together invested an additional $5 billion to research, develop and implement these technologies, almost doubling the spending total since initial publication of the map last March.

It must also be noted that the U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring many of these projects. This is great news, because government investment has been proven to drive down the initial costs of deploying advanced technologies – and it proves that the Obama administration is committed to investing in cutting-edge technology to ensure our country’s clean energy future.

These technologies have enormous environmental and economic benefits. CCT can drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions and help our country meet emissions targets. Furthermore, constructing and commercially deploying carbon capture and sequestration technology could create millions of jobs.

We’ll be highlighting some interesting projects from the map here on Behind the Plug, so be sure to check back here for more.

The byproduct of clean coal technology? Jobs

In a report that we just released yesterday, there’s information on some of the benefits of clean coal technology that you may have never considered. Most notably: jobs.

According to the report:

The federal government’s Clean Coal Technology (CCT) program is a government-industry partnership initiated nearly a quarter-century ago to develop innovative technologies that meet strict environmental standards and allow electric power utilities and other industries to use coal cleanly and efficiently as an energy source.

The program has a wide range of well-documented technological successes and has produced substantial benefits for U.S. taxpayers — benefits that far exceed the federal government’s CCT investments. The benefits include cleaner air, reduced pollution, increased energy efficiency, support for U.S. manufacturing, increased U.S. exports, enhanced national security, and job creation. Further, these benefits are rapidly increasing and will continue to do so as CCT is deployed throughout the electric utilities sector.

But the figures that really stood out at me were these numbers about job creation:

• At present, the program is creating nearly 30,000 jobs.

• By 2015, it will create more than 60,000 jobs.

• By 2020, it will create more than 100,000 jobs.

During a week in which the House of Representatives will vote on a jobs bill, it’s important to remember that we already have successful federal programs in place that not only create vital new jobs, but help us keep electricity rates low in this country at as well.

We encourage you to take a look at the study and to give us your thoughts here on Behind the Plug.

The economy and green jobs: Not mutually exclusive

Much of today’s media coverage is split between President Obama’s speech about jobs and the economy, and the breakdown in the Copenhagen climate discussions. But who says the two topics have to be mutually exclusive?

An international accord reached in Copenhagen could lead to comprehensive climate legislation back in Washington, D.C., creating good paying green jobs throughout the country—a sentiment shared by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said in a recent New York Times op-ed:

[S]ome are concerned that a strong agreement on climate change will undermine the efforts of developing nations to build their economies, but the opposite is true. This is an opportunity to drive investment and job creation around the world, while bringing energy services to hundreds of millions of the world’s poor.

At times, it seems the climate debate centers around which fossil fuel will lead the way or which renewable is the best for the job, but really this country – and the globe – is so dependent on electricity that all sources of energy will be vital to meeting our growing demand. And with low-cost, reliable electricity from coal and the commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage, the jobs created will be substantial.

Investments in clean coal technology are quickly being realized as the leading investment in energy technology. Just today, we released a study that found that the benefits from CCS are extraordinary, in that the return on the investment is quicker and higher than any other energy technology source. Our own U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is the source for this data, and their programs are fast realizing the potential. Perhaps that is why the DOE is making a commitment to CCS projects all across the country.

Moreover, in E&E Greenwire’s coverage of the study, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) surmised that success with current clean coal programs point to an added for federal investment in CCS. “We’re trying to invent an entire new energy system,” said AEI fellow Sam Thernstrom, who went on to say that putting that responsibility on the private sector might not produce results as quickly as would federal funding, and that “investments in CCS make sense.”

So while we investigate ways to turn the economy around and start to grow jobs again in America, we should continue to look to realistic and constructive climate legislation in this country. Not only is it an investment in cleaner air, it’s an investment in our economy and the many jobs it could stand to gain. And perhaps, much like in many other cases, emerging countries will look to America as the model of success.