Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
BLACK FRIDAY DEAL: Trust the World's Fastest VPN with Your Internet Security & Freedom--A Lifetime Subscription of PureVPN at $48 with coupon code "BFRIDAY20" ×
Businesses Power The Almighty Buck United States

$7.5 Billion Kemper Power Plant Suspends Coal Gasification (arstechnica.com) 154

romanval writes: A coal gasification plant in Mississippi is iswitching to natural gas after 5 years of delays and $4 billion cost overrun. Megan Geuss writes via Ars Technica: "The Kemper County plant was supposed to be a cutting-edge demonstration of the power of 'clean coal,' and, despite running five years late and more than $4 billion over budget, Kemper was able to start testing its coal gasification operations late last year. The plant used a chemical process to break down lignite coal into synthesis gas, or 'syngas,' which was then fed into a generator. The syngas burns cleaner than pulverized lignite coal does. In addition, emissions were caught by a carbon capture system and delivered to a nearby oil field to help with oil extraction. That, Southern and Mississippi Power said, would reduce the greenhouse emissions of burning lignite by up to 65 percent. But with only 200 days of gasification operations under its belt, Kemper identified more issues with its technology, including design flaws that caused leaks and ash buildup."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

$7.5 Billion Kemper Power Plant Suspends Coal Gasification

Comments Filter:
  • No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2017 @09:17PM (#54717035)

    In 30 years of power plant engineering, this is no surprise to me. Coal gasification has been tried many times but it cannot pay for itself.

    CO2 capture is just as bad. Stop screwing around and get on board with natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind. Dump coal and dump Trump.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I dump a trump once every few days.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It can pay for itself, but with subsidies for wind and solar that take money out of taxpayer pockets, it can't compete. I would have liked to have seen this plant succeed since it did take so much money from us.

      • Re: No surprise (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This. I'm tired of, for example, paying rich people to buy Teslas and take money from us. If solar and wind were better, they wouldn't need subsidies.

        • Re: No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2017 @10:33PM (#54717297)

          I'm even more tired of turds like you. You do know coal and gas get a cubic fuckton subsidies and tax breaks?

    • eh, natural gas has carbon

      • Yes, but it's natural carbon dioxide, not the artificial stuff they put in coal. That's right there in the name, natural gas. From nature. What could be more green than natural gas?

        I'll tell you what could be more green: natural organic gas. And a team at greenNRG Earthsavers Solutions (formerly British Petroleum "We drill it, we leak it!(r)(tm)") are working on this as we speak. We expect to have Natural Organic Gas really in just a year, on sale at Whole Foods, Public Greenwise, and wherever Homeopathi

    • kinda screw everything up. It means that a very, very small number of Americans in swing states actually decide who gets to be president. So appealing to their desire to keep their old jobs (a reasonable one) works. It didn't help that Hilary's only contribution was to offer them slightly better terms on student loans for a college they couldn't afford to attend and a degree they couldn't get when they were 20.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It didn't help that Hilary's only contribution was to offer them slightly better terms on student loans for a college they couldn't afford to attend and a degree they couldn't get when they were 20.

        A slim hope to be sure, but one a few of the most enterprising could have leveraged into a better life. But even assuming it didn't work for any of these people, the lot of them will end up on some sort of welfare no matter who was elected. At least Hililary and her voters would have supported keeping that at humane levels. Now they are beyond screwed. If long shot loans and training programs aren't good enough, how is total of opportunity and the loss of healthcare better?

      • American lignite is mined in Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. None of those are swing states.

      • I actually think the economic and moral divides that drove the last election are surprisingly comparable to the societal changes which led to the civil war. America had prospered greatly on the backs of slave labor and the largest percentage of those profits where amassed in the north. The industrial revolution allowed northern states to use that wealth to divest themselves of the morally repugnant tradition of slavery. This freed people from needing slavery to maintain their way of life leading to the

    • You mean all those annoying commercials were just hype?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Eventually coal will be worthless.

      Dig that shit up now. Do something. Sell it. Quick.

      • We still need "metallurgical coal" to produce new steel. This is the fairly hard and pure coal that can withstand being in a blast furnace, where it steals oxygen from iron oxide to leave metallic iron. This type of coal is only 5-10% of thermal coal used in power plants. There are a few misc other uses for coal, but power and steelmaking are the big ones.

    • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday June 30, 2017 @04:15AM (#54718257)

      Coal gasification has been tried many times but it cannot pay for itself.

      I expect they projected for gas prices that didn't happen. The Saudi oil price war has also had an effect on natural gas prices since oil can be substituted for gas in some situations. It's probably ten years back this was planned so they wouldn't see this coming and probably expected some spike in prices to keep on going forever.

      CO2 capture is just as bad.

      Here they seem to be sticking a label of capture on a practice of pumping some carbon dioxide down wells to force a bit more gas up. "Greenwashing" an existing practice that isn't going to trap more than token amounts of carbon dioxide - so not impractical just not doing what they pretend it's going to do.
      All that said it seems a bit strange to turn coal into gas in a place that's sitting near an oilfield where getting gas is pretty well a given - on top of the coal seam gas that's available in the min area as well.

      At least it's nowhere near as insane as the projects to produce gas by setting fire to coal in-situ and use the incomplete combustion products. All it would take for those to get out of control is an unexpected path for air to come in from the surface part way through the burn and you've got an unquenchable fire that could burn for years (like some existing underground fires).

    • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

      Coal gasification has been tried many times but it cannot pay for itself.

      There have been successful examples. It just comes from being innovative with your processes and monetizing the "byproducts" of the syngas process. I haven't been there in a couple of years, so I don't know the current situation, but last I had heard there was more money being made on the "byproducts" than there was on the syngas. Dakota Gasification in ND [dakotagas.com] is a decent example.

    • In 30 years of power plant engineering, this is no surprise to me. Coal gasification has been tried many times but it cannot pay for itself.

      CO2 capture is just as bad. Stop screwing around and get on board with natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind. Dump coal and dump Trump.

      Don't tell that part about gasification can't pay for itself to Eastman Chemical. They have been running a coal gasifier for years. They turn the CO into chemical products like plastics and others profitable products. The South Africans also seem pretty good at using the Lurgi gasifiers for gasification.

      • "Don't tell that part about gasification can't pay for itself to Eastman Chemical. "

        I won't. The point missed is that gasifying coal to burn the products is uneconomic, not using coal as a feedstock for chemical synthesis processes.

        (OIl has huge importance for this too. in future times our descendants are going to ask "What the hell do you mean they BURNED oil for heating?")

    • The amount of money spent on wind and solar would give 10-20 times as much available energy if it went into nuclear. I just wish LFTRs would hurry up off the drawing board and back into prototype stage (we already had a U233 MSR reactor 50 years ago, why is it so hard to redo the past?)

  • Monorail? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @09:18PM (#54717041)

    Monorail! [youtube.com]

    "A small town with money is like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it!"

    • by haruchai ( 17472 )

      Monorail! [youtube.com]

      "A small town with money is like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it!"

      Only rubes vote for monorails. The smart people know the big money is in giant Ferris wheels

    • Conan at his worst.
  • "Clean coal..."
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Understand that most of the delay and cost was due to deliberate sabotage the Obama administration. They basically sat on all coal,permits and sent them back with comments at the end of he review period to,run out funding for the projects. It was blatant sabotage, in the way that only a bureaucracy can slow roll things, and completely legal.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Another "Anonymous source", what are you the WP?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          No the WP only uses anonymous sources to attack the current President for imagined abuses of power, not to attack the prior President for his actual abuses of power.
      • ...or, you know, hear me out here, but maybe "Clean Coal" is a scam, and they kept getting permit applications returned because of the very nature of what they were doing, ie it wasn't as green as they claimed, and as a result it wasn't passing any environmental tests that it needed to.

        Do you think, at the end of the day, Obama just had some rage hate on for black rocks that burn? Or do you think that maybe his administration was upset about black rocks being burnt to cause pollution including a massive

  • It will be interesting to see how much of the ~$7.5 billion is allowed in the rate base. Southern presumably eats the rest. Mississippi power only has about 186,000 customers, so there are not many to spread out the costs. By switching it to a conventional gas plant, it will work, but it will be the most expensive one ever.
    • by nierd ( 830089 )
      Well some googling showed that they already paid for it - as Mississippi law allowed them to bill for plants under construction up until recently. Then there is the SEC investigation and a whistleblower lawsuit - I'm going to go with when you smell shit....
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @10:07PM (#54717215)

    How many solar panels and batteries do you think they could have gotten for $4 billion?

    Just sayin'.

    • Re:What a waste. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @10:40PM (#54717335)

      I cannot comprehend how what I see could cost a significant fraction of $1 billion, let alone several. For $300M, you can R&D, build, launch and operate a rover on fucking Mars! What the hell? I think this whole thing was just a huge scam and the players made their bucks off us.

      • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

        You can't comprehend how building something that can turn what is essentially dirt [wikipedia.org] into pure synthetic natural gas could cost even a billion dollars? I'd be surprised if you had any experience in the industry.

        A coal to gas plant is essentially a refinery. Refineries aren't cheap, a quick google search would seem to indicate $5-15B is a good ball park for construction cost, depending on size. Most refineries (or gassification plants) have on-board heat and power generation designed to meet the needs of th

        • by Pascoea ( 968200 )
          Have to correct my comment above... I used a Coal Based IGCC as my power plant example, costing 2.6B. A Gas Fired CC would be 1/2 to 1/4 of the 2.6B I suggested. My stance remains unchanged, $7B still isn't out-of-line with the cost to build a refinery and power plant.
        • Re:What a waste. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Friday June 30, 2017 @09:12AM (#54719207)

          Sorry pal,you're talking to an engineer and I do have industry experience as scheduler. The problem of coal to nat gas (or hydrocarbon fuel for that matter) was solved in the 19th century. The plant under discussion *already* is a nat gas power plant. Lignite is not dirt, it carbon + hydrocarbons + water + ash. The volatile content is so high it's easy to convert to nat gas or other hydrocarbon and that has been done for decades. By removing the water, it becomes equivalent to high grade coal.

          Claiming it's essentially a refinery and then googling oil refinery costs is stupid and irrelevant.

          • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

            Hey, not trying to attack you personally. But I do have first hand experience on the subject, I was a Project Manager for a contractor that did maintenance and capital projects at a coal to liquids plant, Lignite burning power plants, and a refinery. Granted, the gas plant I worked at used the Lurgi process [wikipedia.org] and this one uses a different one, I can't imagine they are THAT different in the overall scope of equipment requirements. The processes obviously are not 1:1 between a refinery and a gassification p

      • The rover(s) was build by engineers and scientists, who wanted to do a mission, probably change the world.
        That plant was build by greedy bastards, probably subsidized, never meant to make a profit.

        In WWII Germany had lots of coal to gas and coal to gasoline plants, worked just fine. We simply had not enough capacity to solve the fuel problems with them.

    • And that money could have been kept in the USA [slashdot.org], providing jobs for americans.

    • Re:What a waste. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by triffid_98 ( 899609 ) on Friday June 30, 2017 @03:36AM (#54718161)
      Given the massive glut of natural gas in the USA right now, neither coal or nuclear make much sense. So long as we have active fracking operations we're going to have a massive surplus of natural gas and using anything else is just plain silly. Running our cars on the stuff wouldn't be a bad idea either, it's not some radical new thing, that's basic technology that we've had since the 1930s.

      Yes there's wind and solar, but those account for only a tiny fraction of our energy supply and only when it's windy and/or sunny outside.

      Fortunately this plant was designed to run on natural gas, so all they had to do was feed it that vs the whole gasification of coal step.

      If we didn't have cheap natural gas that step might make sense, just like if you didn't have any oil it might make sense to turn it into a liquid fuel to run your tanks and planes with if you were somewhere in Germany around say...1942. Once upon a time fracking didn't make sense either, why do that when you can pump sweet crude out of the ground for pennies? Coal may not make sense right now but it's a plentiful fuel source and it's day may come again.
      • "Given the massive glut of natural gas in the USA right now, neither coal or nuclear make much sense."

        Until the gas runs out.

        The problem with THAT is that you need the nuke plants ready _when_ gas prices start climbing rapidly, not several years afterwards.

        • Until the gas runs out.

          Agreed.

          The thing is though, even after there's no frackable oil you're still going to have several years of natural gas in addition to all of the gas you've previously harvested and put into holding tanks. That's how oil wells work.

          I mean, assuming you're not living in Southern California where they created by far the worst methane leak in US history (97 tons). I will grant you that it takes quite some time to bring a nuke plant online and a number of the ones we have now are

    • How many PWR nuke plants could you get for $4billion (even if the answer is "one", you'll get far more actual GWhs out of it than spending $4billion on solar/wind will get you)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The obvious problem was their gasification gear was only tested at a small scale before committing to building all (as in multiple) the full size gear in one go "to reduce costs" (AKA the parallel dev that also burned the F-35 joint strike fighter) which means all the problems of running at full scale weren't worked out ahead of time on full sized prototype equipment. If they had built one set of full size prototype gear to inform the manufacturing of the rest of the gasification equipment, and a less aggre

  • Some jackass over on the "Defecting From the Grid" story is squawking about Al Gore (because, like, Al Gore) and how trivially easy it is to deliver power via "clean coal", and how solar is too complicated and prone to failure.

  • "Clean coal" sounds about as appropriate a term as "clean diesel", i.e. all wrong, a lie.

    • "Clean coal" sounds about as appropriate a term as "clean diesel", i.e. all wrong, a lie.

      Clean diesel is relatively viable. You can make biodiesel to keep the fuel carbon-neutral, you can use an oxidizing trap filter to basically eliminate HCs, and you can inject urea which reduces NOx levels to basically zero. But coal is always going to be releasing sequestered carbon at best. We already have too much carbon in the atmosphere, so saying "but we can fix it" isn't a viable answer — we're not fixing our releases fast enough now, let alone cutting into the problem.

      • There are new (actually decades old) technologies where diesel is mixed with close to 30% water to form an emulsion. Very effective in ships, especially river ships, that improves efficiency and nearly completely prevents the forming of soot or micro dust particles.
        For some reason the industry is waiting for a law to make that technology mandatory instead of jumping on the 30% fuel saving aspect.

        • Doesn't solve the atmospheric CO2 problem though.

          Apart from global warming (which many claim is a scam, I don't), there's a bigger uglier far scarier monster in the closet that comes along with global CO2 atmospheric spikes: Anoxic oceanic events. Look them up.

          There's also a fairly angry elephant in the room even if we dodge the Anoxia bullet: As a result of the increased CO2 levels, Ocean acidity has increased 30% in the last 200 years (Ph is a log scale) and is far enough acid to already be interfering wi

  • by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Friday June 30, 2017 @03:19AM (#54718139) Journal
    There are less that 1.2 million homes in Mississippi. The $7.5B cost of this facility could have put solar power in about 30% of them.
  • Am I the only one that came in here looking for a Factorio blueprint?
  • So, for the cost of this failed, ridiculous, experiment, we could have nearly completed development of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor technology and done away with hydrocarbon plants altogether. Puke.
  • Coal gasification is still a thing? Are you serious?! We used to have that in Northern Ireland, every town had its own gasworks with gas piped into homes. It was shut down in the 1980s by Thatcher because it was so uneconomical.

  • Sounds like the furnaces are designed too small for the quality of fuel - leaks and ash buildup were issues at a lot of the original large plants of the 1960's and early '70's. Once they started using a better quality of fuel a lot of those issues disappeared

The computer is to the information industry roughly what the central power station is to the electrical industry. -- Peter Drucker

Working...