NASCAR fans know racing takes a lot of energy. I’m always amazed to see how much goes into preparing for a race. The JR Motorsports crew is constantly working—from powering the tools in the pit to tuning up the cars. Countless activities that keep our operation running require reliable, low-cost electricity.
October is Energy Awareness Month, and joining forces with America’s Power gave me greater awareness of exactly how energy works in America. One of the most important takeaways has been learning about how electricity is generated and consumed in the U.S., which is home to abundant and low-cost fuel sources like coal.
By harnessing these resources, and investing in new technologies to produce electricity in a cleaner manner, we’re fortunate to have a predictable and low-cost power supply. Considering that most Americans can be confident the lights will turn on and the heat will flow when we flip a switch, it’s easy to take this comfort for granted. In other parts of the world, on-demand electricity is a luxury that many do not have.
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.
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.
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.
At the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, we often talk about the benefits of coal as it relates to affordable, reliable and abundant power. But coal’s benefits don’t stop at the power plant.
I traveled to Denver for a conference that gathered experts who specialize in using material left over from coal combustion. In the first video below, I talk with David Goss, a coal combustion byproducts consultant, about the types of materials created by coal after it generates electricity:
Coal combustion products don’t only contribute to the construction, agricultural and other industries; it can make current materials used in other industries better. In this video, James Roewer, executive director of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group, explains to me how coal combustion products are recycled to conserve natural resources, energy resources, and land resources to create a better, more environmentally friendly type of concrete for construction projects:
What we’ve learned is that advanced coal technologies aren’t limited to coal’s combustion. Using coal to make electricity yields useful byproducts, creating markets for what otherwise would be disposed of as waste. Coal-based electricity generation provides additional benefits through conservation and recycling of byproducts for beneficial use.
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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Laura Sheehan Senior Vice President
Laura Sheehan is a seasoned public affairs expert with more than a 20-year track record in policy communications, media relations, crisis and issues management, community and...
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China Riddle Communications Coordinator
China Riddle is a Communications Coordinator at ACCCE. Growing up in the heart of coal country, China understands the important role coal-based power plays in America’s energy and economic future. Read Full Biography +
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is committed to the idea that America can have the affordable, reliable electricity we need, with the clean environment we want. ACCCE’s Behind the Plug blog is the place for up-to-date news and analysis on clean coal technology developments and energy policy progress.
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