Emissions associated with electricity generation from coal aren’t what they used to be. Between 1970 and 2012, emissions of major pollutants from coal-based power plants decreased by more than 90 percent. We’re proud of how far our industry has come and the path forward we’re helping to forge. During “Earth Month,” we’re spotlighting some of the most cutting-edge clean coal technologies in use at plants today like the John W. Turk Jr. Power Plant or “Turk” in Fulton, Arkansas.
Turk is the first “ultra-supercritical” coal-fueled power plant in the United States which uses a combination of technologies to limit its environmental impact. The plant began generating electricity in December, 2012. Here are some of the ways Turk is leading the way in clean technology and community engagement:
Ultra-supercritical refers to the technology that creates an increase in steam cycle efficiency to effectively reduce fuel consumption, reagent consumption, solid waste, water use and operating costs.
Advanced combustion technology allows the plant to generate energy from low-sulfur coal that produces less greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide) than traditional coal-based plants.
The plant has installed a whole suite of efficiency measures that allows Turk to use less coal to produce the same amount of electricity as a traditional 600-megawatt power plant.
The plant also fuels the local community of Fulton, Arkansas with quality jobs, economic development and $6 million in annual school and property tax revenue.
Check out our new video with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., including his tour of Turk last year:
The coal industry will have invested $145 billion by 2016 to achieve concrete emissions reductions, and the investments won’t stop there. As coal remains our most affordable, reliable domestic energy source for years to come, we must continue to support clean coal technology through investment and balanced regulation.
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.
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.
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.
Here at ACCCE, we work directly with members of the coal-based electricity industry. This gives us a firsthand look at how the new EPA regulations are putting Americans companies out of business and the American people out of work.
The fact is that the EPA’s announced rules aren’t realistic for our industry.
The new rules will require the use of carbon capture and storage technology on a massive scale and while CCS holds great promise for the future of our industry, this technology is still in its infancy.
The coal-based electricity sector is working with the government to further develop CCS technology and demonstrate that it can operate safely and reliably at large plants, but we’re not there yet.
The United States currently has only one first-generation CCS project. This first-generation technology is promising but still very expensive to operate, so a requirement that every new coal-fueled plant must deploy this technology amounts to a de facto ban on the construction of new coal plants.
An end to new coal plants would by extension mean an end to the development of CCS, among the most innovative clean coal technologies ever developed. If the United States quits on coal and clean coal technology, countries like China stand to benefit.
As an industry, our record on developing new cleaner technologies speaks for itself. There are at least 15 different clean coal technologies being used today by our coal fleet and those advancements have helped reduce emissions by nearly 90% since 1970.
This Administration is saying they support clean coal technology, but then pushing policies that would undermine its development. If the Obama administration is truly committed to clean energy, clean coal technology and CCS, then the EPA has to give the industry time to develop this technology and make it commercially viable.
Carbon capture and storage technologies make it possible to reduce emissions while ensuring a reliable supply of affordable electricity to meet America’s growing energy needs using America’s most abundant, domestically produced fuel. But that captured carbon can be used commercially to help other energy industries.
Balanced Energy For Texas recently wrote about the carbon capture and storage process that the Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center will be using as well as how captured carbon can benefit the oil & gas industry:
Did you know that enhanced oil recovery using carbon captured by clean coal technology could result in $5.25 billion per year in economic growth? … Not only does clean coal technology provide affordable, reliable electricity, it will soon help Texas harness previously inaccessible oil resources … Captured CO2 is a valuable commodity. Naturally occurring CO2 imported from other states is currently being used throughout Texas for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). EOR allows oil companies to produce additional oil from existing reservoirs that cannot be recovered using conventional means. In a conventional oil reservoir, only 20 to 50 percent of the oil in the reservoir can be produced by drilling and flowing/pumping. This means that 50 to 80 percent of the oil is stranded underground and, without EOR, can never be used.
Advanced coal technologies are also progressing when it comes to reducing traditional pollutant emissions. Penn Energy’s Optimization Blog interviewed NeuCo Product Manger Rob James discussed his company’s partnership with the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative:
Given the ambitiousness of this project and the huge number of moving parts, I’m proud of how we were able to adapt to the changing set of constraints in a way that provided a lot of utility and met a key set of investigative goals. For instance, we had to respond to changing economic drivers, such as the changing cost-benefit relationship between NOx and heat rate and changes in the value of NOx and SO2 credits, as well as a range of equipment and instrumentation constraints.
Advanced coal technologies also mean jobs.According to a study ACCCE commissioned last May, the deployment of advanced coal technologies would create or support more than 150,000 jobs nationally, and 1.7 million job-years of labor would be created through construction of those technologies. Click here to learn more about the history and benefits of advanced coal technologies.
At the Department of Energy, the National Energy Technology Laboratory is beginning research into new information technologies that would help commercialize carbon capture and storage projects faster. The Carbon Capture Journal reports that industry, government and academic institutions are working together to bring new, cost-effective CCS technologies to market:
The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has begun research under the Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI), partnering with other national laboratories, universities, and industry to develop computational modeling and simulation tools to accelerate commercialization of CCS technologies … While the ultimate goal of the CCSI is to deliver a set of tools that can simulate scale-up of a broad suite of new carbon capture technologies, from laboratory to commercial scale, the first 5 years of the project will focus on developing capabilities applicable to oxy-combustion and post-combustion capture by solid sorbents and advanced solvents … The CCSI’s industrial partners represent the power generation industry and power equipment manufacturers. The initial industrial partners are ADA Environmental Solutions, Alstom Power, Ameren, Babcock Power, Babcock & Wilcox, Chevron, EPRI, Eastman, Fluor, General Electric, Ramgen Power Systems, and Southern Company.
Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified at a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing yesterday, explaining why he continues to see government play a role in advanced coal technology investments:
A wholly-owned subsidiary of Dallas, Texas-based Denbury Resources Inc. has entered into a contract to purchase 70 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from Mississippi Power Company’s Kemper County Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle project … Mississippi Power will capture, clean, compress and deliver an estimated 115 million cubic feet per day of CO2 to Denbury’s Heidelberg Field. First deliveries are expected in 2014.
Advanced coal technologies also allow our federal government and our private sector work with other governments and companies abroad. The Clean Techies blog explains that U.S.-Chinese cooperation on carbon capture and storage projects is one of the top collaborations between the two countries in the clean energy technology sector:
[The] 21st Century Coal Program (CERC-ACTV) promotes a cleaner use of coal resources, such as large-scale carbon capture and storage projects. The program calls for collaboration between a number of companies in the United States, including General Electric, AES, and Peabody Energy, which will be working with a number of Chinese companies to develop an integrated gasification combined cycle power plants, methane capture, as well as a number of other technologies.
The employment impact of moving to a new generation of advanced coal technology is well documented and impressive. We know these are good jobs from a long track record of employment in the related construction, manufacturing, maintenance and operational aspects of power generating facilities
Click here for more information on how CCS technologies work.
The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, based in Australia, just released their report on The Global Status of CCS in 2010. This report goes through different opportunities and challenges of CCS activities in several different countries, and makes recommendation on how countries can move from research and development to commercial deployment of these advanced coal technologies.
While the United States has been working with other countries, like Australia, to develop carbon capture and storage technologies, we have been leading the way when it comes to fully developing those projects. Energy Efficiency News reports:
The number of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects around the world increased by 21 during 2010 taking the total to 234, up 10% on the previous year, according a new report. The report, The Global Status of CCS: 2010, from Australia’s Global CCS Institute finds that of the total, 77 are fully-integrated large-scale projects … [T]he US continues to lead the way with 39 of the total 77 large-scale projects … Within Europe, Norway, the UK and the Netherlands are leading the vanguard with 11 large-scale projects in development.
The United States continues to be a world leader in advanced coal technologies not only because of the investments we make. Our leaders also recognize that advanced coal technologies need to be developed in order to continue to use of one of the world’s most abundant resources with as small of an environmental impact as possible. Just last week, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said to the Senate Budget Committee:
The world will continue to rely on coal-fired electrical generation to meet energy demand. It is imperative that the United States develop the technology to ensure that base-load electricity generation is as clean and reliable as possible.
Plus, taxpayers reap the benefits of our investments into CCS projects. In a 2009 ACCCE-commissioned study, American taxpayers see a quick and significant return on federal investments in advanced coal technologies, gaining $13 in benefits for every dollar the government invests. Learn more about how CCS technologies work from Dan Connell of Consol Energy here.
Mike Duncan is the president and CEO for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the use of coal...
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Darian Ghorbi is the Director of Policy Analysis at ACCCE. Prior to joining ACCCE, Darian spent five years working for the U.S. Department of Energy.
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