Obama administration’s model clean coal plant not panning out too well

posted at 7:21 pm on October 16, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

President Obama will pay any and all lip service necessary to appease the riled coal industry, insisting that no way is his administration using their regulatory powers to slowly but surely squash coal plants out of existence. After all, his administration has every intention of fully supporting (i.e., providing subsidies, grants, tax credits, and all manner of “investments” for) the drive for “clean coal” that employs carbon-capture and -storage technology to trap emissions. (Remember when, ahead of the 2012 election, the White House hastily added “clean coal” to their ostensible “all of the above” energy plan as an afterthought? Yeah, that was cute.)

There’s only one small problem with the administration making such wise and illustrious plans on our behalf: We aren’t actually anywhere near the point at which the benefits of “clean coal” outweigh the costs of producing it, even with all of the lavish subsidies the Obama administration has to offer.

The WSJ reports on one of the few such projects that currently exists, and surprise:

For decades, the federal government has touted a bright future for nonpolluting power plants fueled by coal. But in this rural corner of eastern Mississippi, the reality of so-called clean coal isn’t pretty.

Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County plant here, meant to showcase technology for generating clean electricity from low-quality coal, ranks as one of the most-expensive U.S. fossil-fuel projects ever—at $4.7 billion and rising. Mississippi Power’s 186,000 customers, who live in one of the poorest regions of the country, are reeling at double-digit rate increases. And even Mississippi Power’s parent, Atlanta-based Southern Co., has said Kemper shouldn’t be used as a nationwide model.

Meanwhile, the plant hasn’t generated a single kilowatt for customers, and it’s anyone’s guess how well the complex operation will work. The company this month said it would forfeit $133 million in federal tax credits because it won’t finish the project by its May deadline.

One of just three clean-coal plants moving ahead in the U.S., Kemper has been such a calamity for Southern that the power industry and Wall Street analysts say other utilities aren’t likely to take on similar projects, even though the federal government plans to offer financial incentives.

The Obama administration is really banking on being able to produce some results here with which they can blunt the criticisms about their regulatory central planning, but the heavy subsidization of yet another unproven, unfinished, and impractical technology doesn’t look like it’s going to oblige them in the effort any time soon.


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money in one door and out the other.

rob verdi on October 16, 2013 at 7:23 PM

This regime doesn’t seem to be able to make anything work.

Solaratov on October 16, 2013 at 7:30 PM

I live in Kentucky and boy let me tell you, the Libs in Lexington are trying their best to kill coal. I occasionally get the Lexington Herald paper, and there is not a day that goes by when they are not jumping on the AGW bandwagon and dumping on coal.

Johnnyreb on October 16, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Hmmm.

Solar companies and battery makers for “green” cars going bankrupt despite subsidies, wind farms needing subsidies to stay in business, a clean coal plant that is extracting huge sums of money in bills from customers who aren’t receiving any power from said plant…… This Obama guy certainly has a thing for techonolgies that don’t work and a healthy hatred for those that do.

Bitter Clinger on October 16, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Utopia is hard.

mankai on October 16, 2013 at 7:32 PM

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m predicting that the climate will change.

hillbillyjim on October 16, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Meh, what’s a few billion more pissed away on Barry’s green dreams at this point?

He has wasted trillions in the five years he’s been in office. He has buried this nation under a mountain of debt we will never be able to pay.

To quote his ex SOS: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

We’re screwed.

AZCoyote on October 16, 2013 at 7:42 PM

I live in Kentucky and boy let me tell you, the Libs in Lexington are trying their best to kill coal. I occasionally get the Lexington Herald paper, and there is not a day that goes by when they are not jumping on the AGW bandwagon and dumping on coal.

Johnnyreb on October 16, 2013 at 7:30 PM

It’s a university town, Offer to take them on a tour of an actual coal mine. The trip down the shaft elevator should make their sissy little hearts explode.

katy the mean old lady on October 16, 2013 at 7:46 PM

The Obamassiah WILL have ‘clean coal’ by the sheer magnitude of HIS will!

GarandFan on October 16, 2013 at 7:50 PM

Wouldn’t you expect an iota of embarrassment from this administration due to all of its failures?

socalcon on October 16, 2013 at 7:56 PM

It’s a university town, Offer to take them on a tour of an actual coal mine. The trip down the shaft elevator should make their sissy little hearts explode.

katy the mean old lady on October 16, 2013 at 7:46 PM

I live in Georgetown Kentucky and do not want anything to do with the Big City. I do have to go into Lexington to go to some places I frequent….Home Depot, Canes Chicken fingers, The VFW, the gun range I shoot at and some others.

Johnnyreb on October 16, 2013 at 7:57 PM

It’s a university town, Offer to take them on a tour of an actual coal mine. The trip down the shaft elevator should make their sissy little hearts explode.

katy the mean old lady on October 16, 2013 at 7:46 PM

I doubt that their little chicken hearts would take it. After about a thousand feet down, they’d turn to jelly.

Even a shallow seam can be a challenging thing. These coal-haters keep using their electricity like there’s no tomorrow, and half of them are being powered by their hated coal. Idiots all.

hillbillyjim on October 16, 2013 at 8:03 PM

I live in Georgetown Kentucky and do not want anything to do with the Big City.

Johnnyreb on October 16, 2013 at 7:57 PM

I was born in Hopkins county, grew up in Muhlenberg, lived for a while in Owensboro, back to Hopkins then moved to Virginia. Still own land in Hopkins which has a coal mine under it. Unfortunately although there is still coal under it the collapse of the coal industry caused the mine to go belly up and it’s abandoned and flooded now.

Oldnuke on October 16, 2013 at 8:20 PM

Obama administration’s model clean coal plant not panning out too well

Two bad assumptions here:

1. They really care if it works.
2. They really care if it doesn’t work.

Dr. ZhivBlago on October 16, 2013 at 8:30 PM

Oldnuke on October 16, 2013 at 8:20 PM

The house my mother grew up in down in Meigs County, Ohio, sat right over a mine adit that belonged to the Peabody Coal Company.

It was closed down before she was born (1913) and everybody forgot about it. That is, until twenty-two years ago, when it decided to start slumping.

The house didn’t collapse into it. Since it was on the crest of a hill overlooking Route 50, the whole crest started sliding downhill as the adit fell in. When it had moved four feet and the concrete foundation was leaning, the then-owner (my uncle) moved out.

What was left of the house finally stopped moving when it was 230 feet downhill from its original site.

Yes, the coal company and my uncle’s homeowner’s insurance company came to an “understanding”.

For Peabody, it was something of an expensive “oops”.

cheers

eon

eon on October 16, 2013 at 8:34 PM

Even worse than that, the Obama administration lip service was just to drag the Bush clean-coal plant out of mothballs and give it another go, even though the proposal was over ten years old and they dumped it as cost-ineffective over five years ago.

The Schaef on October 16, 2013 at 9:19 PM

This Obama guy certainly has a thing for techonolgies that don’t work and a healthy hatred for those that do.

Bitter Clinger on October 16, 2013 at 7:31 PM

There’s this funny thing about engineering projects: You must deal with reality, or you fail.

Even with financial matters, you can cook the books (for a long time anyway, but not forever). And you can give speeches and do political gyrations to force new and awful laws through the system. But building a power plant or a bridge or a web portal requires that the thing actually work. No amount of speeches or politics can make that happen. And math is hard.

ZenDraken on October 16, 2013 at 10:19 PM

I dont know if this has been mentioned yet but now is a good time…

You want to know what has NOT happen this summer…

,

,

,

Not one hurricane hit the US this year. Recall all the fear mongering about how the seasons were gonna get worse and worse…. ya… I do too…. and yet another thing out the window.

In fact I think only one really really weak tropical storm hit this season and that was it… some much for climate change… but they wont talk about this though.

watertown on October 16, 2013 at 11:58 PM

Sort of like another government project, Obamacare.

Viator on October 17, 2013 at 7:57 AM

If it works, Obama doesn’t like it.

He HAS to screw-it up somehow.

Turtle317 on October 17, 2013 at 8:38 AM

You can ban carbon.
You can’t outlaw chemistry.
Clean Coal means No Coal.

Haiku Guy on October 17, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Several months ago, I applied for employment as an engineer at the Kemper County plant, and in preparation for an eventual interview, I reviewed Southern Company’s brochure on the proposed power plant and the process it uses.

The “clean” part of the process does not actually “capture” carbon dioxide, but uses an electrochemical process where CO2 from flue gas dissolves into a (proprietary) solution at one terminal to form carbonates, while the other terminal produces a purified CO2 gas stream, and the entire process is a gigantic battery that produces Direct current (DC) at low voltage.

Flue gas leaving the side of the battery where CO2 dissolves consists of mostly nitrogen and hydrogen, which the Kemper process proposed to react to form ammonia, which could then be sold to the fertilizer industry.

The key here is that the electrochemical process did not actually “capture” CO2, but merely separated it from the nitrogen/hydrogen stream at low pressure, so the purified CO2 would have to be compressed (using a significant fraction of the power generated) before it could be buried underground.

Kemper County was probably counting on the sale of ammonia, and the additional electricity generated by the battery, to justify the cost of separating and purifying the CO2, but the cost of converting low-voltage DC to high-voltage AC probably became prohibitive.

By the way, I didn’t get the job. Based on what I read here, maybe just as well.

Steve Z on October 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Holy cow, they can’t even build a coal burning electric plant!

They can’t build a web site, they can’t figure out how to legally use freeware, etc. etc.

talkingpoints on October 17, 2013 at 6:57 PM

“…that employs carbon-capture and -storage technology to trap emissions.”

Store in the atmosphere where plants will uptake it and the world gets Greener. Everyone happy. Problem solved.

Tsar of Earth on October 18, 2013 at 3:05 PM