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Carbon capture, clean coal plant goes bankrupt, only $4.4b over budget

TonyfromOz explained how fatal the numbers on “carbon capture” are. (It’s like the GFC of engineering). The new coal plants cost 60% more to build and waste something like 40% of the entire energy they generate to “catch” a beneficial fertilizer and and stuff it in a small hot hole underground.

It’s hard being first, but hey, the plant is only 2 years behind and $4.4 billion over budget. Part of the costs are due to delays because of wet weather. (Apparently the climate models did not see that coming…)

Obama has set aside $6 billion since 2009 for lab research and “commercial deployment” of clean coal. In response to the abject failure he’s doing what most people do when spending other people’s money — “Despite these troubles, the White House says it will continue to support clean coal.”

News last week:

America’s First Clean Coal Plant Put Mississippi Power ‘on the Brink of Bankruptcy’

[Link may not work, try “cached copy“.]

Stephen Lacey

Last week, state regulators approved an emergency rate increase for Mississippi Power in order to keep the company afloat as it completes the increasingly-expensive Kemper plant. Mississippi Power customers will see a temporary rate increase of 18 percent — a change that could become permanent, depending on the utility’s financial health.

The 582-megawatt Kemper plant was hailed as an important step for the clean-coal industry in 2008, after receiving $270 million in government grants and eventual approval from the public service commission to build the facility. The integrated combined-cycle power plant is designed to create and burn synthesis gas made from lignite coal, while also pumping carbon-dioxide pollution into a nearby oil field.

Building the first-of-a-kind commercial plant has been challenging for Mississippi Power and its parent, Southern Company. Kemper is two years behind schedule and $4.4 billion over budget.

According to Darren Samuelsohn in “What’s wrong with clean coal” (Politico) the Kemper plant was supposed to capture 65% of the CO2 and pump it into an oil field to help produce more crude.

And as the plant blows through deadlines, the cost has ballooned dramatically: An original price tag of $1.8 billion has swelled to $6.2 billion.

Progress since then [2010] has been anything but smooth. Southern Company, which in its earliest iteration in 2006 envisioned a $1.8 billion project, (excluding costs for the adjacent mine and carbon dioxide pipeline) has had a litany of missed deadlines and budget overruns. It had to repay more than $130 million in federal tax credits after missing its May 2014 deadline to start producing power —  a delay that company officials blamed in a 2013 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on “abnormally wet weather and lower-than-planned construction labor productivity.” Critical pieces of the plant’s infrastructure have been built, torn up and rebuilt again. For every month of delay, Southern Company has said in its financial disclosures to the SEC that the plant’s price tag goes up between $25 million to $30 million.

He also says Kemper may be bad, but it’s the best “clean coal” anyone has:

As clean-coal projects go, Kemper —  even with its delays and cost overruns —  practically counts as a success story. Another high-profile test case for the technology — FutureGen 2.0 in central Illinois — died three months ago after its federal subsidies evaporated. Two more major federally funded demonstration projects in California and Texas are also imperiled.

But one small Canadian plant somehow sort of works

So far, one major power plant has managed to make carbon capture technologies work. In Canada, SaskPower launched the first coal plant in the world to sequester its carbon dioxide emissions from an existing facility. The $1.2 billion retrofit now captures 90 percent of its emissions and sends them via an eight-inch pipe to an oil field for energy production about 45 miles away.

“It’s working great,” said Mike Monea, president of the company’s carbon capture and storage initiatives at the Boundary Dam Power Station, which is about 10 miles north of the U.S. border near Estevan, Saskatchewan. But the plant uses a different technology from Kemper’s and is also nowhere close to Kemper’s size ─110 megawatts, compared with about 580 megawatts. It also required $200 million (U.S.) in Canadian government subsidies.

Read the long feature in “What’s wrong with clean coal”. Engineers will find it interesting.


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