Coal's Last Hope: Coal Gasification
Duke Energy is working on a $3 billion public-private service initiative: converting a 160 megawatt coal plant into a 618 megawatt coal gasification plant that would scrub toxins before leaving its smokestack. Set to materialize in September in Indiana, the initiative is seen as coal's last hope to clean up its CO2 emissions and compete with natural gas.
The President of the company, Dough Esamann, is confident that the project will be the lowest cost energy unit on the system as he will explain in more detail next month at the EnergyBiz Leadership. The company will retire 3,000 megawatts of coal units, replacing them mostly with modern combined cycle gasification.
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While coal-fired generation is still an important source of energy in the U.S., the majority of the plants built in the mid 20th century are well past their prime. The roughly 540 coal plants existing in the U.S. today account for almost half of the country's total electricity generation and about a third of all CO2 emissions. Older facilities are in desperate need of an upgrade. The gasification process is expected to increase the efficiencies of older units by as much as 60 percent.
Though skeptics are concerned about the reliability of carbon sequestration, the Obama administration has already allocated some $3.4 billion toward clean coal technologies. The ultimate goal is to perfect coal gasification technologies, converting coal to fuel gases before sulfur, mercury and carbon are removed. The next step is capturing and storing that carbon safely and economically.
FutureGen and Southern Company are working on similar coal gasification efforts in Mississippi and Illinois. If these technologies can prove to be effective on a commercial scale, they may serve to save and maintain coal's spot in electric markets—both in the U.S. and in the global market.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly