Posts filed under Clean Coal Technology and Research

My Day at Kemper with Dale Jr.

Last week, I was able to take advantage of an extremely unique opportunity: to go visit the most talked about coal plant in the country, the Kemper County Energy Facility. If that wasn’t enough, I got to escort Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the two-time Daytona 500 Champion, on the visit.

When we arrived at Kemper, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had only seen one coal plant before in West Virginia, and even from far away it seemed absolutely massive. I couldn’t even imagine what the most up-to-date facility could be like. After getting a safety briefing, we put on our hard hats and neon vests and went to see the plant.


When we were walking around, I wondered about the light colored rock beneath my feet and I soon discovered that it was lignite coal. Mississippi alone has more than 4 billion tons of lignite, and lignite accounts for over half of the world’s coal reserves. Kemper’s 6,000 employees help convert the lignite to gas through a gasification process called TRIG technology. TRIG essentially forms a chemical reaction where the lignite turns into a synthesis gas, while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury (carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by at least 65% when using TRIG technology.) While Kemper is criticized for its cost overruns, it’s not uncommon when dealing  with a never-been-done  project of this magnitude. Over time, facilities like Kemper (after deemed commercially viable) will be cost-efficient and produce more electricity at a lower capital cost compared to other gasification technologies. Another benefit? The captured carbon from Kemper will be  transported to a facility more than 60 miles away to be used for enhanced oil recovery.

Among carbon capture and storage (CCS), Kemper has other environmentally-friendly components. For instance, the plant is a zero liquid discharge facility which basically means that any water they use to generate electricity, doesn’t go back into nature. They even have an agreement with a neighboring city (Meridian, Mississippi) for the majority of its overflow to be funneled to the 90 acre reservoir on-site.

It was amazing to see how excited the plant workers were when they found out that Dale Jr. was on site. It was such a great surprise for all of them, and so wonderful to hear the responses they had to show their appreciation for him supporting coal-based electricity. Dale Jr. loved seeing his fans, and his fans loved seeing him. I was speaking with his girlfriend, Amy, and she was telling me about their visit to CONSOL’s Enlow Fork plant last year and how interesting it was to learn about not only the plant and the mines, but the people that dedicate their lives to ensuring we have the power we need. She was equally as excited to see Kemper and learn about the technology behind it.

On my visit, I met several people who had been on-site since day one of construction and are still there several years later, its operations are the focus of American energy’s future. There are 6,000 hard-working Americans at Kemper that take a lot of pride in their work and how far they have come.   I can’t wait to see this amazing plant come on line in the fall and to continuing to learn more about the coal-based industry – and to my next plant tour with Dale Jr.!


Leaders Convene to Discuss Future of Energy at ECO:nomics

This week, the Wall Street Journal hosted its ECO:nomics business forum in sunny Santa Barbara, California. Several CEOs and business leaders gathered together to discuss America’s energy and environmental future. How do we meet our ever-growing electricity needs, while also reducing emissions? Many leaders agreed: coal is here to stay, and we must utilize clean coal technology.

Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, reiterated the importance of coal-fueled power to support our electrical grid. Utilities like AEP depend on coal, a reality that was evident during the recent ‘polar vortexes’ and throughout the frigid winter. Around 90% of AEP’s coal plants currently slated for closure was brought online to help meet demand and power through the coldest days. As Akins told ECO:nomics attendees, we need coal backing up our electricity grid because “no one likes the lights to go out.”

Akins was followed by Peabody Energy Corp. CEO Gregory Boyce. Boyce and Akins carried a similar message: coal is critical and will be an integral part of our energy mix for years to come. It is the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S. and the fastest-growing source around the world. Boyce noted that Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are all increasing their imports of coal, and Asia has been steadily increasing its use of coal, as well.

Coal-fueled power is electrifying communities across the globe and can bring power to all those who need it most, Boyce explained. Given Boyce’s commentary at the conference, it’s not surprising that Peabody is leading a global effort to help promote coal’s role in eradicating poverty through its newly launched Advanced Energy for Life campaign.

Both Boyce and Akins stressed the importance of further developing clean coal technology. In the words of Nick Akins, “progress is being made but not enough.” Boyce pointed out that building new clean coal plants is an opportunity to decarbonize. They both agreed that coal must be a major part of our future energy portfolio to ensure reliability, while also limiting emissions with advanced technology. But, if EPA continues with its crusade against coal-based electricity, the future of clean coal technology will be effectively quashed.

Instead we should support advanced technologies and maintain low-cost, reliable power for our communities through the use of America’s most abundant source of energy – coal.


New Study Reveals Billions in Costs, Lost Jobs Under NRDC’s Carbon Regulation Proposal

This week, we released a detailed economic analysis of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) carbon regulation proposal, first put forth by NRDC in December 2012 and updated last week.

The newest version of NRDC’s proposal ludicrously asserts that its plan to reduce CO2 emissions from existing power plants would carry no costs at all and would actually spur numerous benefits. Worse yet, the NRDC proposal recommends a system-based approach (also known as “outside-the-fence”) that is essentially a cap-and-trade program. Our analysis, performed by leading research firm the National Economic Research Associates (NERA), clearly demonstrates that NRDC left out some critical facts including the $13 to $17 billion-per-year price tag for consumers and the millions of jobs America stands to lose under its proposed policy.

Our economic analysis further projects the NRDC proposal would cost consumers a total of $116 to $151 billion during the period of 2018-2033. And, retail electricity prices would increase by double digit percentages in as many as 29 states.

Over this same time period, net job losses could total as many as 2.85 million. NRDC projects net job gains in the thousands, but only in the years 2016 and 2020.

NRDC also asserts that gas-fired generation would increase by 2 percent. Our economic analysis found that natural gas-fired generation would increase by 8-16 percent to keep up with demand, while rates would simultaneously increase by as much as 16 percent.

The results of our economic analysis reveal that the NRDC proposal is, in fact, all pain with very little gain. And the proposal’s failure to mention the many potential consequences, like cost increases and job losses, suggests that the group is ignoring reality in order to drum up support for its impractical plan. A more reasonable approach to greenhouse gas regulations would offer more flexibility and would focus on measures that can be taken at power plants to reduce their impact, while maintaining dependable, low-cost, coal-based electricity.

Here at America’s Power, we support an “inside-the-fence,” source-based approach that bases emissions reductions on measures taken at existing power plants. This would include many improvements power plants can make to their facilities that improve efficiency, remove emissions and more. Being able to implement measures at individual generating units is a common sense approach to working with utilities and achieving significant emissions reductions and environmental improvements. Let’s work together to craft a solution that works for our consumers and for America’s energy future.

Join us in asking the EPA to set common sense policies and to protect American jobs today.


American Coal Council’s Spring Forum Hosts Important Discussion

The American Coal Council hosted its Spring Coal Forum in Naples, Florida, this week where speakers underscored the importance of coal-fueled electricity to America and why the U.S. must invest in clean coal technology.

Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., told the large crowd in Naples that there would be “no environmental benefit” in the “deliberate destruction” of the U.S. coal industry.

Murray went on to applaud Roger Bezdek for his important study on the social cost of carbon. Bezdek, another presenter at the Spring Coal Forum, asserted that “coal is the fuel of the past, present and future.” Bezdek also highlighted the fact that “electricity is essential for human well-being” and that coal effectively meets this need.

Murray told the crowd that 89 percent of American Electric Power’s (AEP) coal assets that are already slated for closure, due to EPA regulations, were put online this winter to supply electricity and heat during the frigid polar vortex. The lessons learned from this winter make it abundantly clear that now is the wrong time to take such a vital resource as coal out of commission. This is especially true when you consider that coal-fueled power is more advanced than ever as the industry has reduced emissions by 90 percent since 1970 and will have invested $145 billion in emissions controls by 2016.

Instead of making progress on reducing emissions from coal-fueled plants, the EPA is effectively halting carbon capture and storage (CCS) from further development by requiring the commercial-scale use of this technology before it is ready. That’s why we were encouraged to learn that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is taking action by launching an investigation into the questionable decision-making process by EPA that led to this untenable rule.

As I stated yesterday, for too long, the EPA has chosen to ignore the counsel of leading scientists and failed to come clean with American consumers about the true costs and consequences of its rulemaking. Instead of a reasonable path forward, EPA has proposed a rule that is unworkable and carries a high price tag for all Americans.

 

Take action by filing a comment with the EPA and ensuring affordable, reliable coal-based electricity.


ACCCE Talks Energy Policy with Senator Heidi Heitkamp

Following the Coal Technology Symposium on Capitol Hill last week, we sat down with Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to talk about North Dakota’s and America’s energy future.

Senator Heitkamp knows better than most the need for a diverse fuel portfolio in America’s energy sector. After years of experience working within the energy industry, she now reaches across party lines on Capitol Hill to pursue common sense energy policies. Senator Heitkamp understands that coal-fueled electricity provides reliable, affordable power and can support America’s energy demands while reducing our carbon footprint.

“We know we can deploy clean coal,” Senator Heitkamp told us. “People ask me all the time, is there such a thing? And I say, absolutely.”

The United States is currently the global leader in clean coal technology innovation.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for coal-fueled power plants, however, put America’s innovation leadership at serious risk. As currently devised, NSPS will all but ensure no new coal plant is ever built in America resulting in a halt in innovation in clean coal technologies. Other countries like China and India will be all too eager to step in and continue to advance these technologies which will bring economic benefits in the trillions of dollars to the leader of the innovation race.

Senator Heitkamp believes that EPA and energy policy makers should work with America’s coal industry to develop less stringent regulations that allow room for extensive research and development of clean coal technologies right here at home.

“When you shut down the opportunity for coal long-term, or you send the wrong signals, you’re going to shut down the investment,” Senator Heitkamp added.

In 2012, North Dakota depended on coal-fueled power to generate 78 percent of the state’s electricity. Local businesses and families alike rely on the affordable power from coal to power their communities reliably, even during North Dakota’s harsh winters. And, this winter in particular, coal-fueled power plants were critical in meeting electricity demands across the country during the coldest days.

If EPA continues to pursue regulations that will shut down coal-fueled plants or place a de facto ban on future construction, local communities will be hit the hardest. Thankfully, Senator Heitkamp is standing up for North Dakota communities that depend on coal-fired power for electricity, job growth, and the numerous benefits coal offers local economies.

 

Take action today and join the fight to protect low-cost energy from coal and support the development of clean coal technology.


What They’re Saying: Reliability and Energy Prices

This week, we’ve seen a number of developments making energy news, and a major theme is emerging that’s shaping the conversation about the future of energy policy in the U.S.

The selection of a new chair for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, statements by energy industry experts and elected officials and an administration official telling Congress that new EPA regulations could raise electricity prices by as much as 80 percent have people talking about the reliability of our grid and energy costs.

It was announced yesterday that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been selected to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Her selection is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate, and her elevation to this position is good news for energy producers and consumers alike.

Senator Landrieu announced she will pursue an agenda that will be “inclusive, bipartisan and focused on the job creation that America needs and wants,.” She has a proven record of fighting back against EPA overreach in order to protect affordable reliable fossil fuels and works across the aisle, seeking commonsense solutions to use our most abundant resources, like coal, more efficiently and cleanly.

A leader like Senator Landrieu will be instrumental in shaping policies that keep energy prices affordable for our families and our businesses.

Unfortunately, Senator Landrieu’s commonsense approach isn’t the only thing shaping the future of energy policy.  The EPA and the Obama Administration are still pursuing new regulations that could cause an enormous price increase for energy consumers across the country.

Dr. Julio Friedmann, the deputy assistant secretary for clean coal at the Department of Energy, told members of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations yesterday that EPA’s plan to require Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology for all new coal plants could raise wholesale electricity costs by as much as 80 percent.

Dr. Friedmann’s statements confirm what we’ve long known to be true: CCS is still a developing technology.  It’s not yet a commercially viable option, and requiring new coal plants to install CCS will lead to higher energy prices for businesses and families.

As new regulations make it more costly to operate coal-fueled power plants, the continued retirement of these energy sources is likely to increase the probability of rising electricity prices and supply disruptions.

With the record low temperatures we experienced this January, we’ve seen an increased demand for energy.  What we learned last month is that without the power generated by coal, electric reliability is called into question. Additionally the price of other energy sources, like natural gas, can spike when people need it the most.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) highlighted the need to keep our energy mix diverse in response to this year’s extreme weather:

“Our reliance on installed, dispatchable power generation during extreme weather serves as a shining example of why diversity of baseload capacity is necessary to secure grid reliability. “

When we needed it the most, Americans turned to the power generated by coal to keep our lights on and our homes warm.  But with coal plants continuing to retire, what will happen when those units are no longer available?

In her comments on protecting the energy sources on which we rely, Sen. Murkowski expressed how tenuous our current policy direction is:

“What happens when that capacity is gone?  Maybe we won’t have cold periods like we’re seeing next year [and] we’ll be OK.  But what kind of policy is that?  A hope and a prayer, that’s not how we need to be operating here.”

We cannot afford this administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes coal.

We can’t stand by as government agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) deals with the issue of reliability by allowing PJM to offer power prices that exceed the market cap of $1,000 per megawatt hour.

Actions like those undertaken by FERC set a dangerous precedent that places the burden of increased electricity costs on ratepayers, rather than prompting a critical examination of the energy and environmental policies coming from the White House.

Politically motivated agendas should not be undermining America’s access to affordable, reliable energy at the expense of family budgets and businesses’ bottom lines.

 

 

 


The Kemper Energy Facility – Groundbreaking Technology for Cleaner Energy

Over the past decade, clean coal technology has come a long way. When we say “clean coal technology,” we’re referring to the slate of more than 15 advanced tools aimed at reducing emissions, including scrubbers, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Together, these technologies have reduced overall emissions by more than 90%.

America is leading the way in developing these innovative technologies at institutions across the country, including the Ohio State Clean Coal Research Laboratory and the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research.

Southern Company’s Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi has been one of the most talked about clean energy projects not only here in the United States, but across the globe. Creative and forward-thinking engineering has allowed the plant to change the way we view coal-fired power. Southern Company is nearly finished constructing the 582-megawatt transport integrated gasification (TRIG) plant that will deploy technology to capture 65 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the plant. The groundbreaking technology will burn lignite coal that is mined on-site, and subsequently capture the carbon byproduct and store it underground. While the plant is an incredible example of American innovation, it has also taught us a few things about the challenges involved in building an advanced carbon capture facility.

For one, it has shown us that CCS is not commercially viable yet. The Kemper Plant has experienced significant cost overruns and delays in construction.

Second, it has shown us that only a specific set of circumstances allowed Kemper to be built. The plant is located in an area that is perfectly suited for the coal mine and power plant’s construction, and thus is not replicable just anywhere.

And third, the Kemper plant has demonstrated how far we have come in the development of clean coal technology, but also how far we have left to go. Southern Company’s own environmental director, Danny Herrin, told the EPA this week that “experiences gained from the Kemper County energy facility, as well as from many more fully integrated applications [of CCS] on full-scale power plants, are needed before the technology can be considered adequately demonstrated.”

By setting ourselves on the right path, we can support the continued development of CCS, along with dozens of other technologies designed to reduce emissions from power plants. To do so, we must pursue energy policy to ensure that the Kemper facility is the first, but not the last, power plant of its kind in the U.S.


The Year Ahead

None of us have the benefit of a crystal, ball but one thing is certain as we look ahead at 2014 – coal will continue to be a fundamental part of our energy future, ensuring America has the affordable, reliable, base-load energy needed to power our everyday lives and businesses.

In 2014, we must focus on how to move reasonable policies forward that continue to make America’s coal-based industries leaders in reducing emissions and innovating new ways to utilize one of our greatest energy resources. Putting political platitudes and legacy goals ahead of smart policies,will only threaten our economy, risk hundreds of thousands of jobs, and halt innovation.

Consider that through 2013, the coal-fueled electricity industry had invested $118 billion in a variety of clean coal technologies, reducing emissions by nearly 90% since 1970. And, between 2012 and 2016, the industry will invest another $35 billion on the U.S. coal fleet’s emissions controls.

These investments mean more than just cleaner coal-fueled power.  They represent an effort by the industry to develop new technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which could mean an estimated $1 trillion in economic benefits to the U.S. over the next two decades.

But these benefits are in jeopardy.  Overreaching and unattainable regulations proposed by the EPA threaten to send innovative technologies like CCS, which are still in their infancy,  to countries like China which will reap the rewards of second and third generation development.

The conversation about the future of our energy policy has to focus on how we move forward, not backward.

We must have an energy policy that helps create jobs and new economic opportunities while ensuring that we have affordable and reliable power for our families and businesses.

We must develop sensible solutions that balance our need to reduce the environmental impact of energy generation with our need to protect American energy workers, consumers and manufacturers.  In short, we need an all-of-the-above energy policy.

This Wednesday, America’s Power will be presenting U.S. Energy Policy: The Road Ahead, hosted by Real Clear Politics.

Register here to be part of the discussion, and help us start a conversation that moves our energy policy forward and protects the people and communities that keep our lights on and our homes warm.

If you can’t make it to the event in person, be a part of the discussion on Twitter using #RCPEnergy.