DOE - Fossil Energy Techline - Issued on:  October 16, 2001

Abraham Announces Projects to Bolster Electricity Supply from Coal Plants


"Power Plant Improvement Initiative" is Precursor to President's Clean Coal Technology Program

Washington, DC - With many areas of the country still facing tight electricity supplies in coming years, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham today announced more than $110 million in new projects to apply leading edge clean coal technologies to improve the reliability and environmental performance of the Nation's coal-burning power plants.

Abraham announced that the federal government will share the costs of outfitting eight power plants to become "showcases" of ways coal plants can continue generating low-cost electricity with better performance and in compliance with tight environmental standards.

Coal-fired power plants are the workhorses of the Nation's power industry. More than 600 coal-burning generators today account for more than half the electricity Americans consume.

"Our National Energy Plan recognizes that America cannot generate the electricity it needs without coal. That is why the President has pledged a new effort to work with the power industry to apply our best technology to use our vast coal reserves cleanly and economically. The projects we are announcing today will give us a 'jump-start' on the President's clean coal commitment," Abraham said.

The technology demonstrations will take place in Ohio, Florida, New York, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Kansas, and Virginia.

The projects will be funded under the "Power Plant Improvement Initiative," a Congressionally-directed effort that will serve as the precursor to President Bush's clean coal technology program.

Congress approved the initiative last October following a summer of intermittent power supply disruptions and price increases. Using funding originally allocated in the 1980s for clean coal technology demonstrations, Congress directed the Department of Energy to use up to $95 million for projects to improve the performance of existing and new coal-fired electric power plants.

Today's projects were selected from 24 proposals submitted to the department in April [Read Techline]. Most will focus on lower cost technologies for reducing pollutants from coal-burning power plants. With many coal plants threatened with premature shutdowns because of environmental concerns, more effective and lower cost emission controls can keep generators running while improving the quality of the nation's air and water.

Other projects will improve the performance and reliability of power plants. In one Florida project, sophisticated computer technology will be used to determine how best to clean the inside of coal boilers without disrupting plant operations. In another Florida project, a laser system will be used to measure the wear rates of materials inside a coal gasifier. Coal gasifiers could one day replace the traditional coal-burning boiler in super-clean power plants of the future.

One project will tackle the problem of waste handling from coal-burning power plants by turning the sludge from a Virginia power plant into masonry blocks, reducing the need for landfills.

Although exact dollar amounts will be determined during upcoming negotiations, the Energy Department expects to provide approximately $51 million for the eight projects. Private sector sponsors are expected to contribute nearly $61 million, exceeding the 50 percent private sector cost-sharing mandated by Congress. Projects will take from just over a year to five years to complete. The selected projects are:

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  • Alliant Energy Corporation, Madison, WI, proposes to use advanced computational modeling to improve the performance of coal-burning systems and "push the envelope" for existing technologies that reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx), pollutants that contribute to smog, harmful ozone, and acid rain. The Energy Department's $3.7 million will provide for one of the three demonstrations proposed by the company, at the Edgewood Generating Station in Sheboygan, WI. The plant uses a "cyclone boiler," a type of coal furnace especially prone to high nitrogen oxide emissions. Alliant Energy will match the federal funding share for the 15-month project.

  • Arthur D. Little Inc., Cambridge, MA, will outfit a boiler at the Orion Power Company's Avon Lake Power Plant near Cleveland, OH, with a hybrid pollution control system to reduce nitrogen oxides. The hybrid system will lower the cost of reducing NOx by integrating three established NOx reduction technologies: natural gas reburning, selective non-catalytic reduction, and selective catalytic reduction. The Energy Department's share of the 38-month project is nearly $15 million; A.D. Little will provide $15.6 million.

  • CONSOL Energy Inc., South Park, PA, plans to demonstrate a multi-pollutant control system to reduce NOx, sulfur dioxide (SO2), mercury, acidic gases, and fine particles from smaller coal plants for less money than it costs to control NOx and SO2 separately. Among the innovations CONSOL plans to install at the AES Greenridge Power Plant near Dresden, NY, is a catalytic NOx reduction technology that works inside the plant's ductwork, a low-NOx combustion technology that burns coal mixed with biomass, and a flue gas scrubber that is less complex and nearly half the cost of conventional systems. The government's share of the 54-month project will be $14.5 million; $18.3 million will be provided by CONSOL and its project partners.

  • Otter Tail Power Company, Fergus Falls, MN, will install a technology designed to capture up to 99.9999% of the fly ash particles emitted from a coal boiler. To achieve the high capture rate, the company will integrate a fabric filter system (or "baghouse") with an electrostatic precipitator (which uses electrically charged plates to attract ash particles) in a single unit. The 36-month demonstration will take place at the company's Big Stone Power Plant in South Dakota. The Energy Department's $6.5 million cost-share will be matched by $6.9 million in private sector funding.

  • Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, Hays, KS, will install ultra-low-NOx burners with other combustion controls to demonstrate a pollution control concept that has never been tried in power plants burning western subbituminous coals such as those from Wyoming's Powder River Basin. The pollution controls will be tried out in a 48-month project at the company's power station in Garden City, KS. The Energy Department will fund $2.8 million with Sunflower Electric Power providing $3.0 million.

  • Tampa Electric Company, Tampa, FL, has been selected for two projects. At its Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, FL, the company will apply a neural network system to determine when and how best to dislodge soot that can build up inside a boiler and degrade performance. While sootblowers are common in utility boilers, most are manually activated under preset rules or the operator's judgment. Computer controlled sootblowing technology will permit the cleaning of internal boiler surfaces with improved power plant performance. The 36-month project will receive just under $1 million from the Energy Department with Tampa Electric providing almost $1.5 million.

    In a second project, Tampa Electric will demonstrate a laser system that measures the wear pattern of the brick liner inside a coal gasifier. Coal gasification is likely to be one of the new technologies installed in future power plants largely because it offers superior environmental performance and efficiency improvements over today's coal-burning boilers. In the Energy Department's original Clean Coal Technology Program in the 1980s and 1990s, Tampa Electric built one of the nation's pioneering coal gasification power plants in Polk County, FL. This plant will become the test unit for the laser system. The Energy Department will fund $640,000 of the 18-month project's $1.7 million total cost.

  • Universal Aggregates LLC, South Park, PA, will demonstrate a system that converts the sludge from power plant scrubbers into light-weight masonry blocks or concrete. Today more than 80% of this sludge is disposed of in landfills, and the practice is becoming an increasingly contentious public issue. This 43-month project in Birchwood, VA, could offer an alternative by turning a pollutant into a commercially-valuable product. The Energy Department will fund $7.2 million while the company will provide $10.8 million.

- End of Techline -

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