Coal gasification technology new to the U.S.

POTTSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA - A $400 million coal gasification plant proposed for the Good Spring area would join just two existing U.S. plants that use the same technology, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Bill Purvis, a staffer in the office of communication for the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, said there are currently two commercial Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plants operating in the United States in Polk County, Fla., and Vigo County, Ind.

At least a half-dozen more applications are in development around the country.

“They’re very clean, they’re ultra-clean, and they are more efficient than run-of-the-mill plants. So if you built an IGCC and close an older plant, that’s an improvement,” Purvis said.

Future Power Pa. LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based clean coal energy developer Future Fuels LLC, and technical consultant company Quad 3, which share office space in Moosic, plan to have a gasification plant operational in Schuylkill County by 2011.

Jim Childress, executive director at the Gasification Technologies Council, Arlington, Va., said the company’s timeline is “aggressive” in the face of tough economic times, though not impossible.

The biggest factors in determining the plant’s chances of success, Childress said, are the level of financial backing, whether they have a power purchaser lined up and where they are getting their technology.

Canada-based digital video imaging company Immersive Media Corp. made a $5 million investment for start-up costs on the plant. David Anderson and Albert Lin, directors at Immersive Projects, said increased interest in technology companies made the coal gasification plant a strong investment.

“We’re fully committed to the project,” Anderson said. “It’s our intention to assist in funding or fully fund this project.”

Jim Palumbo, president of the technical consultant company Quad 3, said although developers have been invited to apply for a government alternative energy program and are interested in some of those funding opportunities, they are not reliant on federal money.

“There are no government subsidies necessary for this project to move forward,” Palumbo said.

Palumbo declined to name the technology providers for the plant because they had not signed contracts, but said developers had agreements with two providers that have several commercialized technologies available to them.

Purvis called the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle “advanced technology” that allows gasification plants to generate electricity, adding that it has been in development for 20 years, but only has been used in realized plants.

Palumbo said the plant will use the IGCC to heat anthracite coal with steam to create a gas, which then spins a turbine to generate electricity.

The plant will be built on 120 acres of Summit Anthracite in Good Spring, and Summit Anthracite will retain ownership of the land and act as a partner in the project.

The technology is “pretty basic,” Palumbo said, but has been improved to result in a lower sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide content and allow the plant to “basically have a clean-burning turbine.”

As for purchasers, Palubmo said the plant will work through the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection, or PJM, to sell the electricity, but no contracts have been signed to date.

Palumbo said signing both technology providers and power purchasers will be part of developers’ work over the next three to six months.

The developers are also going to start preliminary work with county and state agencies this month and next month, Palumbo said, and continue to work through 2009 to secure the permits needed start construction on the plant. Palumbo said the developers will need environment site development permits in categories like storm water management, ash treatment and air quality.

Another economic challenge, Childress said, may be the size of the plant, which Palumbo said will generate electricity at a capacity of 150 megawatts an hour. A larger plant usually generates a unit of electricity at a smaller cost than a smaller plant, Childress said.

The Good Spring project’s capacity is on the smaller side compared to a proposed Duke Energy plant in Edwardsport, Ind., that is projected to have a generating capacity of 630 megawatts, Childress said.

After permits are secured, Palubmo said construction is planned for 2010. The developers expect the plant to create about 100 permanent jobs, as well as indirect jobs and temporary construction jobs.

A $1 billion waste-coal-to-clean-diesel plant proposed by John W. Rich Jr., president of Waste Management & Processors Inc., Gilberton, would have a generating capacity of 41 megawatts.

That plant, however, would focus on liquid fuels, not electricity, and produce 3,700 barrels of diesel fuel and 1,300 barrels of Naphtha, a low-octane, zero-sulfur gasoline, per day.


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