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Our Commitment to a Clean Energy Future: Clean Coal Technology

Coal will fuel America’s future. And we’re committed to ensuring that future is a cleaner one than ever before. Of course, commitment is more than a word – it requires action. That’s why the U.S. power industry will have invested $145 billion to deploy clean coal technologies to reduce air emissions by 2016, while at the same time providing affordable, reliable electricity to meet growing energy needs.

In order for clean coal technology to grow and for American innovation to thrive, it must be supported by reasonable regulations.

In September 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft of its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for coal-fueled power plants. This regulation will place a de facto ban on new coal-fueled power plants, even the most advanced plants, based on the rule’s overly stringent limit on carbon dioxide emissions.

While clean coal technology is real, it is in its first generation and not yet used here or anywhere in the world on a full-scale power plant. We need to enact regulations that allow its potential to be fully realized, rather than stopping it in its tracks.

Congress first coined the term “clean coal technology” in the mid-1980s. Back then, Congress defined the phrase in reference to technologies that reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. Today, it includes these emissions reduction technologies plus many more.

Clean coal technology refers to technologies that improve the environmental performance of coal-based electricity plants. These technologies include devices that increase the operational efficiency of a power plant, as well as those technologies that reduce emissions. Early work to develop clean coal technologies focused on efforts to reduce traditional pollutant emissions like sulfur dioxide (SO2); nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are a precursor to smog; and particulate matter. Clean coal technology will continue to improve in response to environmental challenges.

To find out more about how our industry’s investment in cleaner coal technology has impacted emissions, check out this report on industry expenditures for emissions controls.

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Clean Coal Technology in Use

Right now, in the U.S. there are at least 15 clean coal technologies being used today in the American coal fleet. By 2015, over 90 percent of the U.S. coal-fueled electric generating capacity will have installed clean coal technologies and other advanced emission controls.

These proposed advancements aren’t just predictions of what’s to come, advancements are happening today at energy companies and plants developing these technologies, including:

  • John W. Turk Plant Southwestern Electric Power Company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, is currently operating a 600 MW “ultra-supercritical” power unit – the first plant of its kind in the U.S. The advanced ultra-supercritical steam generation uses a coal combustion technology that enables the plant to produce the same amount of energy but use less coal and release fewer emissions than a traditional combustion coal-fired power plant.

  • Kemper County Mississippi Power Company, a subsidiary of The Southern Company, is currently constructing a 582 MW IGCC power plant in Kemper County, Mississippi. Southern received $270 million of Department of Energy (DOE) support through the Clean Coal Power Initiative to build an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant to capture and stores carbon dioxide. The captured carbon dioxide will be used in an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) operation. Though the plant has seen several delays in construction and cost overruns, it is scheduled to be operational in late 2014.

  • Summit Texas Clean Energy Project (TCEP) In Ector County, Texas, the Summit Power Group has begun construction on a 400 megawatt (MW) IGCC power plant. Summit received $450 million of DOE support through the Clean Coal Power Initiative to build their IGCC plant which will capture approximately 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from the gasifier. Approximately 20 percent of the captured carbon dioxide will be used to produce fertilizer; the remaining CO2 will be used for EOR. This plant is currently under construction and is expected to be operational in 2015.

  • WA Parish Plant Located at the existing W.A. Parish Plant in Houston, Texas. NRG has begun building a 250 MW post combustion capture project. This project, having received $167 million from DOE through the Clean Coal Power Initiative, will operate as a slip stream from an existing power plant. The captured carbon dioxide will be used to conduct EOR operations. This plant is currently under construction and is expected to be operational in 2015.


Carbon Capture & Storage

Today, energy companies are working with the federal government to develop, demonstrate and deploy the next generation of advanced technologies.

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CCT Glossary

Want to learn more about clean coal technologies? Visit our glossary to learn all of the key terms regarding our commitment to a clean energy future.

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CCT Jobs

Today, our nation is focused on economic recovery – and creating well-paying jobs has become the number-one priority for most policymakers.

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