Sunday, 4 March 2018

The end of 'clean coal'

The US budget is giving large subsidies to various energy sectors:
Budget deal has tax credit extensions for nuclear, fuel cells, carbon capture | Ars Technica

Not everyone is impressed by the largess:

Dear President Trump, Coal Is Neither Clean Nor Beautiful

President Trump praised “beautiful clean coal” in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. 

Far be it from me to question Trump’s sense of beauty—the former owner of the Miss Universe pageant is, ex officio, the universe’s leading beauty authority. 

"The phrase ’clean coal’ is a made-up branding slogan. It is not real. Nothing can make a coal plant clean," says Nicole Ghio, of the environmental organisation Sierra Club.

Mississippi Power’s Kemper County energy facility in central Mississippi near DeKalb, under construction on 21 October 2013. Initially hailed as one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants on the planet, the company recently announced it was switching to gas due to rising construction costs.
(AP/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Nithin Coca 5 February 2018

According to a recently announced deal between the ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE) and the World Coal Association (WCA), clean coal is coming to Asia.

However, the details are murky. Many environmental advocates believe this is by design. As the situation in the United States shows, clean coal has, so far, seen no success, leading many to fear that it is little more than a marketing ploy for regular, dirty coal plants.

Coal has long been derided as the dirtiest fossil fuel energy source, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Clean coal technology was developed by the coal industry in the 1990s to limit air pollutants such as particulates, nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide. Since 2000, the coal industry has been pushing for investment in and the development of coal plants that, due to carbon capture and storage technologies, could also be greenhouse gas neutral.

However, despite billions of dollars in investment, no large-scale coal plant has so far been able to demonstrate zero-emissions coal.

In June of 2017, Mississippi’s Kemper County Energy Facility, which was meant to be the first large-scale clean coal plant in the United States, announced that it was switching to natural gas. The project was five years behind schedule and US$4 billion dollars over budget, and Mississippi taxpayers would have to cover more than US$2 billion.

Despite the failure of Kemper, and the lack of any functioning large-scale facilities in the decade-plus since the idea of clean coal emerged, the coal industry wants to promote clean coal technology in energy-hungry south-east Asia, a region of more than 600 million inhabitants.

One reason why the coal industry may be looking at south-east Asia is to make up for the decline of coal as the power of choice in the United States. Even the election of a pro-coal US President has not had an impact. According to the Sierra Club, coal plants were retiring in 2017 at the same pace as during the Obama administration.

The false promises of 'clean coal' - Equal Times 

With the long view from the Guardian this weekend: 

How America's clean coal dream unravelled

Exclusive: Kemper power plant promised to be a world leader in ‘clean coal’ technology but Guardian reporting found evidence top executives knew of construction problems and design flaws years before the scheme collapsed

by Sharon Kelly Fri 2 Mar

High above the red dirt and evergreen trees of Kemper County, Mississippi, gleams a 15-story monolith of pipes surrounded by a town-sized array of steel towers and white buildings. The hi-tech industrial site juts out of the surrounding forest, its sharp silhouette out of place amid the gray crumbling roads, catfish stands and trailer homes of nearby De Kalb, population: 1,164.

The $7.5bn Kemper power plant once drew officials from as far as Saudi Arabia, Japan and Norway to marvel at a 21st-century power project so technologically complex its builder compared it to the moonshot of the 1960s. It’s promise? Energy from “clean coal”.

“I’m impressed,” said Jukka Uosukainen, the United Nations director for the Climate Technology Centre and Network, after a 2014 tour, citing Kemper as an example of how “maybe using coal in the future is possible”.


Kemper, its managers claimed, would harness dirt-cheap lignite coal – the world’s least efficient and most abundant form of coal – to power homes and businesses in America’s lowest-income state while causing the least climate-changing pollution of any fossil fuel. It was a promise they wouldn’t keep.

Last summer the plant’s owner, Southern Company, America’s second-largest utility company, announced it was abandoning construction after years of blown-out budgets and missed construction deadlines.


How America's clean coal dream unravelled | Environment | The Guardian

There are questions over the future of the technologies which this plant was relying on to create 'clean coal':
Kemper County IGCC: Death Knell for Carbon Capture? NOT. | NRDC

See also:
Futures Forum: Climate change >>> Engineering the climate >>> 'As a technology of last resort, carbon removal is paradoxical. It may be impossible to manage and it may also be impossible to manage without.'

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