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America’s Flagship ‘Clean Coal’ Experiment Abandoned After 11 Years And $7.5 Billion

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posted on Jun, 30 2017 @ 09:23 AM
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Ame rica’s Flagship ‘Clean Coal’ Experiment Abandoned After 11 Years And $7.5 Billion



The coal industry suffered a major blow on Wednesday when the utility giant Southern Company abandoned work on its troubled Mississippi “clean coal” facility amid skyrocketing costs.

The Kemper County Energy Facility, conceived under President George W. Bush, promised to turn coal into cleaner-burning gas and provide a model for the future of coal. But after 11 years and $7.5 billion, the plant failed to produce commercially viable technology.

Last week, Mississippi utility regulators offered Southern Company an ultimatum. The firm could continue experimenting with gasification, and risk losing $3.4 billion as the power board rejects a hike to the rate paid by the 187,000 customers who get power from Kemper. Or it could convert the plant to natural gas. The Atlanta-based utility, which began burning gas in 2014 to generate power amid delays on its coal conversion technology, chose the latter.


The idea of 'clean-coal' is a propaganda tool used to convince the masses that Big Daddy Coal has the answer to our climate change woes.

Now after 11 years and $7.5 billion they have admitted that it was all an uneconomic waste of time. I am sure that underneath all that work there is some useful science and technology, but 'clean-coal' is busted. In the immortal words...


'E's passed on! This pipedream is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!

'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies!
'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!


Just think what the renewable energy industry could have done with that 7.5 billion dollars.

Wind Turbines cost about $3.5 million (installed) (2012 numbers) so that's around 2145 2MW wind turbines or around 4290MW.

Before Hazelwood power plant shutdown (the largest power plant in Australia and the dirtiest in the OECD), it was producing about 25% of Victoria's electricity demand (about 5% of Australia). When it shut down, Victoria 'lost' about 1600MW of base load capacity.

Gee, if the Energy Industry had invested half of that $7.5 billion (government subsidy) in Victoria it could have replaced Hazelwood with a wind farm and attendant battery storage, and paid for the Hazelwood rehabilitation (close to $1billion by itself) at the same time.

Or, of course they could have applied IT to Photovoltaic research, or battery research, or wave generation research, or remote area small scale generation research. Anything to advance the state of play in anything that has a good chance to succeed. Or, what the heck, they could have invested it in rehabilitating the economy in the Appalachian area where the coal jobs are NEVER going to come back.

OK, so you really couldn't know going in that the 'clean coal' idea was going to be a bust could you? Well yes, actually you could; just by thinking about it from first principles: and the most important 'first principle' is: TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

The conversion process was always going to be energy inefficient, as the conversion process itself costs energy. Most concepts of 'clean coal' involve turning it into a gas (coal gassification). You might be able to output a gas product that burns more efficiently, but you had to spend energy to get that energy efficiency. TANSTAAFL.

The conversion process was always going to be dirty, 'cleaning' coal means there is going to be a waste product somewhere which has to go somewhere or be put somewhere. Most waste would be gasses, and Carbon Capture and Sequestration might work but the effectiveness of the best plants seem to be around 40% and are horrendously expensive. TANSTAAFL.

I repeat for the record, that I am sure that that $7.5million wasn't totally wasted. I am sure a lot of very good science got done and a lot of very good technology got invented, tested, and its implementation will continue to benefit. I am also perhaps a little tough on CCS. After all Mother Earth has made it work just fine for something like 3.5 billion years. If only we had 3.5 billion years to get it right.

Other references:

How much do wind turbines cost

Breaking down the cost of electricity part 3

With apologies to Monty Python
edit on 30/6/2017 by rnaa because: (no reason given)

edit on 30/6/2017 by rnaa because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 30 2017 @ 11:02 AM
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They can make scrubbers to take the carbon and other harmful products out of the coal plants. That money could have retrofitted every plant in the USA and lowered emissions. It was a waste of taxpayers money to give these experts money to do that.



posted on Jun, 30 2017 @ 11:34 AM
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originally posted by: rickymouse
They can make scrubbers to take the carbon and other harmful products out of the coal plants. That money could have retrofitted every plant in the USA and lowered emissions. It was a waste of taxpayers money to give these experts money to do that.


The carbon has to go somewhere...the current solution is to bury it...still doesn't accomplish much, does it? It's just passing the buck so that another generation has to come up with a solution to our current problem. And the real solution is an alternative technology which relies on the sun as well...just not on dead critters from eons ago.



posted on Jun, 30 2017 @ 11:45 AM
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originally posted by: kelbtalfenek

originally posted by: rickymouse
They can make scrubbers to take the carbon and other harmful products out of the coal plants. That money could have retrofitted every plant in the USA and lowered emissions. It was a waste of taxpayers money to give these experts money to do that.


The carbon has to go somewhere...the current solution is to bury it...still doesn't accomplish much, does it? It's just passing the buck so that another generation has to come up with a solution to our current problem. And the real solution is an alternative technology which relies on the sun as well...just not on dead critters from eons ago.


It is far better to bury that carbon than to bury the nuclear waste from the nuclear power plants.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 07:28 AM
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a reply to: rnaa

So is your argument because the coal could not efficiently be turned into gas that all cleaner coal technology must fail? Really?



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 08:30 AM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: rnaa

So is your argument because the coal could not efficiently be turned into gas that all cleaner coal technology must fail? Really?


No.

My argument is that there isn't any such thing as 'Clean Coal' and there never will be. The word 'Clean Coal' is a term that was 100% invented by a marketing hack somewhere in the bowels of a propaganda mill for the fossil fuel industry. It was never a term that had any meaning in the real world of science and technology.

There is a 'basketful' of technologies that are lumped together under the label 'Clean Coal' by the fossil fuel industry. Some of them are useful improvements on the status quo, like secondary burners to use waste heat to improve efficiency. But that is not new technology in any way shape or form (its been done for over 100 years), and doesn't make the coal burn any cleaner - just more effectively.

None of the technologies will ever produce anything resembling a 'Clean Coal' product as the industry has tried to sell it to the public. "Cleaner Coal" isn't "Clean Coal"; "Cleaner Coal" is just "less Dirty Coal" - and the only way that is even relevant in the real world is in the difference between, brown coal and black coal. Coal processed to burn cleaner has had impurities removed. It takes energy (i.e. its expensive) to do that and produces toxic waste (which is the 'dirt' that was removed and has to be disposed of). The whole system is NOT cleaner and is NOT more efficient.

I keep mentioning the Hazelwood plant in Victoria Australia because it is near me, and there is a lot of very good documentation about it. It was recognized as one of the dirtiest plants on the planet, using the nearby brown coal deposits as a cheap and abundant fuel supply.

The State Government owned Hazelwood and had scheduled it to be retired in 2005. (hmmm, 11 years before it actually shut down? ATS loves a conspiracy - what do you make of that 'coincidence' matching the time the project mentioned in the OP?) There were plans in place for Hazelwood's retirement, for retraining workers, for reworking the local economy, for replacement of its generation capacity. But then the fossil fuel industry 'sold' a greedy government on the idea that 'Clean Coal' was just around the corner and the Government sold it off in 1996 (the French Government owned a big chunk of it for awhile). It is now more economic to shut it down and rehabilitate the plant site and the mine (close to $1 billion AUD) than it is to upgrade it and keep it running generating revenue.

Hazelwood trialed two Carbon Capture technologies before it shut down. They were good ideas, but the best of them was listed as 'successful' when it managed to capture 25 tonnes of emissions per day and could be scaled up to 50 tonnes. Sounds cool yeah? Well, 50 tonnes is less than 1% of the emissions that need to be captured from that plant. CCS aught to be the most straight forward of the "Clean Coal" technologies - but 1% effectiveness just ain't gonna cut it, anywhere, anytime.

What I am particularly mad about is that the pipe dream of 'Clean Coal' sometime in the future has robbed us of precious time to invest that research money in non-carbon based energy solutions. The fossil fuel industry has use the prospect of cheap and cheerful 'Clean Coal' to suppress the adoption of renewable energy technologies. 11 years the Victorian Government spent propping up Hazelwood, subsidizing the crap out of it, practically giving them the coal for free, paying the health cost of the workers that were sickened by the fire at the coal mine a few years ago. 11 years the La Trobe valley didn't have a chance to rehabilitate their economy due to over reliance on the mine and plants. There is so much that could have been done in that 11 years. Originally, the Government had 10 years to plan for the plant's closure. In the end they had less than 10 months notice and no chance to plan.

It's time for the Koch Brothers to stop buying politicians, pay back that $7.5 billion dollars, and invest in about 10,000 wind turbines and a few hundred gigawatt solar PV farms. All of which are absolutely 100% viable right now, and cheaper to build and cheaper to run than equivalent coal plants.

Time's a-wastin'.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 08:37 AM
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a reply to: rnaa

Depends on your definition of clean.

news.nationalgeographic.com...



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 10:26 AM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: rnaa

Depends on your definition of clean.

news.nationalgeographic.com...

No, it really doesn't:
Sask. carbon capture plant doubles the price of power
This is that power plant. It charges $60 per MW/h and its carbon capture costs... roughly the same.

Worse, it's not up all that much:
SNC-Lavalin-built carbon capture facility has 'serious design issues': SaskPower
The power company admits the sole CCS equipped generator was running at only 40% of capacity.

Boundary Dam project reaches a milestone
It appears to be running much better these days, but it only produced an average of 110 MW/h at the reported peak average; this Unit #3 generator was rated at 160 MW/h.

Also, it's not very economic:

SaskPower spending more to capture carbon than expected

They underestimated costs of a chemical they use vital to CCS by fourfold: amine was budgeted ~$5 million year, but expects it to actually cost ~$20 million this year - that's an annual cost.

Cost overruns don't help:
CCS performance data exceeding expectations at world-first Boundary Dam Power Station Unit #3
Overruns total the cost to build the thing at nearly $1.5 billion.

Think about that a second... it charges $60 per MW/h and peaked its average at 110 MW/h multiplied by 365 days and 24 hours comes out to $5,7816,000 of annual revenue... and it underestimated annual costs by ~$15 million... and it cost ~$1.5 billion to build the thing to begin with.

How do the economics work?



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 10:32 AM
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originally posted by: Greven
How do the economics work?

The same way they work on every new technology. Or do you not understand prices go down as technology matures?

You linked a BIASED report by a competitor. Nothing independent. IIRC it costs money to capture the carbon, but they then make money off that carbon by selling it.

How much was wind/solar when it first came out .. price has not come down at all .. right?



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 10:50 AM
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a reply to: OccamsRazor04

Uh, I linked several things, mostly statements from the company itself.

$60 per MW/h? From the competitor.
110 MW peak average? From the company.
~$15 million annual cost underestimation? From the company.
~$1.5 billion total cost? From the company.

Don't just believe something because you want it to be true. Find out if it actually is.

There is more information in those links if you care to look, and there is more information out there on this particular experiment. You can argue all you want about technological progress... in fact, why don't you support your wind power argument with a citation?
edit on 10Sat, 01 Jul 2017 10:58:36 -0500America/ChicagovAmerica/Chicago7 by Greven because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 10:54 AM
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a reply to: Greven

Awesome. And how much was solar/wind when the technology was first being developed. Or do you expect fully mature technology with no cost to develop it?



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 10:59 AM
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a reply to: OccamsRazor04

YOU cite that. Don't ask me to do your own work for your own claims.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:01 AM
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originally posted by: Greven
a reply to: OccamsRazor04

YOU cite that. Don't ask me to do your own work for your own claims.

Why would I cite it? I said there are newer cleaner technologies being developed, YOU are the one who brought in cost. Why am I doing your work for you?



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:10 AM
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a reply to: OccamsRazor04

How the hell is it my work? I've claimed nothing about wind power costs.

You have claimed prices go down as technology matures (have you seen the healthcare industry?), then made a specific implication to the wind/solar energy (albeit in a sarcastic manner) as a counter point:

originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
The same way they work on every new technology. Or do you not understand prices go down as technology matures?

You linked a BIASED report by a competitor. Nothing independent. IIRC it costs money to capture the carbon, but they then make money off that carbon by selling it.

How much was wind/solar when it first came out .. price has not come down at all .. right?

Find out on your own dime. I'm not your slave.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:14 AM
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a reply to: Greven

So I show you there are working cleaner coal techs and you have no retort. Thanks.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:27 AM
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Coal is already pretty clean. Good to see that they are trying to do even better. We need an "all of the above" energy strategy until we find a suitable replacement for fossil fuels. The more energy we have now, it will be faster and easier to find that alternative. Some people want to cut off their nose to spite their face, but that isn't going to get us any closer to legitimate renewable energy technology.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:28 AM
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a reply to: OccamsRazor04

Where did you show this?
No retort? Did you perhaps forget the massive response with multiple citations that destroyed your initial counter claim?

Oh, right, you saw that then claimed it was all by the competitor, and now you claim it wasn't even a retort.
edit on 11Sat, 01 Jul 2017 11:39:37 -0500America/ChicagovAmerica/Chicago7 by Greven because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:31 AM
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a reply to: Greven

You brought up cost, not that the tech did not work. Then you claimed you did not want to talk about cost.

So please make up your mind.



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:39 AM
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originally posted by: TruMcCarthy
Coal is already pretty clean. Good to see that they are trying to do even better. We need an "all of the above" energy strategy until we find a suitable replacement for fossil fuels. The more energy we have now, it will be faster and easier to find that alternative. Some people want to cut off their nose to spite their face, but that isn't going to get us any closer to legitimate renewable energy technology.


"All of the above" is the best strategy for now. Southern made a business decision.

This same company, Southern Company, received a $40 million dollar grant in Jan. 2016 to explore advanced nuclear reactor technologies:


ATLANTA, Jan. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company today announced it has been awarded up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to explore, develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactor technologies through subsidiary Southern Company Services.

The effort will be managed through a new public-private partnership with TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University. Housed at the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the research will bolster the development of molten chloride fast reactors (MCFR), an advanced concept for nuclear generation.
www.prnewswire.com... 05098.html

Indeed...all of the above. Already there are environmental problems developing with so-called "green energy" alternatives.

Clean Energy's Dirty Little Secret



posted on Jul, 1 2017 @ 11:40 AM
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originally posted by: OccamsRazor04
a reply to: Greven

You brought up cost, not that the tech did not work. Then you claimed you did not want to talk about cost.

So please make up your mind.

Perhaps you simply don't understand how debate works...?

OP claimed clean coal was a failure with citations.
You claimed a particular power plant was a success of carbon capture with a sole citation.
I claimed that this particular power plant is not actually very successful in an economic sense with many citations.
You then claimed that my claim was from a competitor.
You also claimed technological progress lowers costs with no citations.
I countered that almost every point in my claim was from the company, not the competitor.
I asked for citations of your specifically mentioned wind/solar lower cost implication.
Now you're ... complaining about being asked to provide evidence to support your claim and expecting ME to provide evidence about your claim first?




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