Clean coal boondoggle?

Duke Energy’s Edwardsport, IN, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle station may be an example of good sounding ideas not living up to the hype.  Coal gasification has been around for a long time. In the 1850’s it was used to provide city lighting.  Why not apply 21st century technology and get a power plant using syngas from coal?  The result will be lower emissions and efficiencies of the combined cycle generation are 50-60%, better than 35% from coal fired generation.  The reality so far?  The Edwardsport IGCC had a cost overrun of $2 billion ($3.5 billion instead of $1.5 billion), was online for 6 days after startup and has added 15% to the Indiana consumer’s power bill.  Oh, and during the period September to November, it used more energy than it produced.  It’s history has been significantly underachieving on electrical output as reported by Paul Chesser in a National Legal and Policy Center article summarizing reports from the Indianapolis Star and other sources. Other posts on Duke and this project can be found here and here. Bloomberg suggests that the $3.5 billion Edwardsport Station is less attractive than a $1 billion Bloom Energy project.

Take two known technologies (gasification and combined cycle generation) add some CCS in a public-private partnership with free government money and the ratepayers footing the bill, what can go wrong?  If you want to make coal too expensive to use, these folks seem to be on the right track.

(h/t Tallbloke’s Talkshop)


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3 responses to “Clean coal boondoggle?

  1. The customer for regulated power companies is the regulatory agency, not the electricity consumer. The power companies are given a return on investment, so inefficient, expensive boondoggles are OK.

  2. Gassification is not as bad as sequestration for cost and trouble and capital outlay, but its still more expensive by about 20 or 30 percent per KWH as i recall. As I recall, the tech is not conversion like the Germans did, its just super heating with a methane gas fire so the coal burns cleaner, with less emissions. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  3. John1282,
    Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) can be thought of as a three stage process. First, pulverized coal is partially burned in an oxygen restricted environment. This produces a gas called syn-gas which is then burned in a gas turbine to produce electricity. The waste heat from this process is then used to make steam which is sent to a steam turbine which also produces electricity. Integrating these three processes into one plant has the potential to be much more efficient than just burning the coal to make steam (and then electricity).

    One of the links in the article above says that there is also a carbon capture unit included which is probably what makes this such a boon-doogle. That and the consequences of Stan’s post.

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