DOE - Fossil Energy Techline - Issued on:  November 8, 1995

Indiana Clean Coal Facility Signals New Era of Clean Power from Coal


Wabash River Coal Gasification Project is Dedicated

West Terre Haute, IN - The U.S. electric utility industry today took an important step across the threshold of a new era of clean, high-efficiency power generation with the dedication of the pioneering Wabash River Coal Gasification Plant in West Terre Haute, Indiana.

Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary, speaking at the dedication, congratulated Destec Energy Inc. and PSI Energy, Inc., for the successful construction and startup of the advanced facility which she said "will redefine the future of power generation from coal."

The Wabash River facility is the result of a joint venture by Destec and PSI to repower a 1953-vintage steam generator at PSI's Wabash River Generating Station.

The 262-megawatt (net) power facility is the largest plant of its type to operate in a fully commercial setting. It incorporates an advanced process called "integrated gasification combined cycle" to generate electricity. Rather than burning coal directly, the plant first converts the coal into a combustible "syngas," then burns the syngas in a high-efficiency gas turbine. In gaseous form, virtually all of coal's pollutant-forming impurities can be removed, making the process one of the cleanest ways to generate electric power from coal.

"The Wabash River Project is the forerunner of a new era of environmentally-superior clean coal technologies," O'Leary said. "It is a preview of the 21st century."

Milestone for Federal Clean Coal Program

Dedication of the plant also marks one of the most important milestones in the Department of Energy's 10-year-old Clean Coal Technology Program. The Wabash River facility is one of 43 first-of-a-kind projects across the country that are being designed, built and tested with joint government-industry financing. The $438 million project is receiving half of its funding from the Energy Department with the other half supplied by the project's industrial partners.

Nationwide the Clean Coal Technology Program is co-financing nearly $7 billion of high-technology projects with industry providing nearly two-thirds of the overall costs.

Most of the Clean Coal Technology projects to date have featured advanced pollution control devices that can be added to existing power plants to reduce air emissions. By contrast, the Wabash River facility is previewing an entirely new way to generate electricity from coal.

These new power technologies are expected to play an increasingly important role in the 21st century as generating companies look for affordable ways to produce electricity while meeting more stringent environmental laws.

Highly Efficiency and Environmentally Superior

The plant combines Destec's coal gasification process with a high-efficiency combination of a gas-fired turbine and a conventional steam generator. Syngas burned in the turbine generates one source of electricity while the turbine's exhaust gases are used to produce steam for a steam turbine electricity generator. This combination of gas and steam turbines -- which accounts for the name "combined cycle" -- makes the Wabash River plant extremely efficient in extracting useable energy from coal.

The Destec gasification technology removes 98 percent of the sulfur in coal, reducing emissions to a fraction of the new Clean Air Act requirements due to take effect in the year 2000. Nitrogen oxide pollutants -- another emission from conventional plants -- are reduced by 90 percent, well within Federal air quality standards.

Sulfur removed from the coal will be converted into a by-product for making fertilizer. Even the coal ash normally discarded from conventional plants is converted by the gasification process into a form that can marketed as a black, glassy aggregate for road building.

Construction of the advanced facility began in September 1993 and was completed in less than two years. In addition to design and construction, the project includes three years of Federal-private cost-shared test operations during which the Energy Department will collect data on the plant's performance. Information gathered during the initial operations will be used to evaluate the viability of the new technology for future replication both in the U.S. and in expanding overseas markets.

After the demonstration period, the Wabash River facility will continue to run as a commercial power generating unit.

The clean performance of the technology will also allow the plant to continue using high-sulfur coal from the local region, preserving jobs and regional economies that depend on coal mining. The Peabody Coal Company's Hawthorn mine in southwest Indiana is supplying coal for the facility.

The advanced technology will be a candidate for both new facilities and older plants in need of refurbishment. In the United States, particularly in the Midwest and East, nearly 100,000 megawatts of existing coal-fired utility boilers -- the equivalent of 200 mid-size, 500-megawatt power plants -- are now at least 30 years old. Many of these aging plants could be candidates for repowering with the technology now being demonstrated at the Wabash River site.

The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy and its Morgantown (WV) Energy Technology Center are overseeing the Federal investment in the project.

End of TechLine