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Tech Transition

Utility projects advance the state of the art.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2009


Duke Indiana says the IGCC facility will be able to produce nearly four times as much power as the existing Edwardsport plant, with significantly less environmental impact, including 45-percent less carbon dioxide emissions per net-megawatt hour. Upon the new plant’s completion in 2011, the existing 1944- and 1951-era coal and oil-fired units will be retired.

The state’s experience with IGCC technology at Duke Indiana’s Wabash River Station in West Terre Haute in the 1990s, helped as well. It was there that the DOE demonstrated a 260-MW petroleum coke gasification plant, one of the first coal gasification projects to produce electricity on a utility scale.

“We didn’t own the IGCC, but the gas it produced was burned in one of our turbines. It’s a much smaller unit than the one that will operate at Edwardsport. But that obviously helped us because state regulators were familiar with the technology,” Protogere says.

When IGCC technology was introduced back in 2007, Duke Indiana President Jim Stanley touted its ability to burn Indiana coals. “The Edwardsport facility fits Indiana’s energy plan to turn homegrown natural resources into an economic engine and be self-reliant for power. It’s part of our overall plan to meet growing customer needs with cleaner coal technology, energy efficiency, and renewables,” Stanley said.

Once the new unit is running, Duke Indiana says it will study the potential for removing carbon dioxide from coal during the syngas conversion process to either store or sequester it in underground geologic formations. In May, the utility announced it received $1 million in funds from the DOE’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program.

“It’s important to use early projects like this one to get IGCC off the ground,” Protogere says. “This is the first time the technology is being used on this scale. As more are built, the costs should come down because the designs become standardized.”

Sequestration Progress

No utility is pulling for Duke Indiana’s success more than its neighbor, Columbus, Ohio-based AEP.

AEP was the first U.S. electric utility to announce plans to scale up IGCC technology. Unfortunately, the two $2.3 billion (each) 629-MW IGCC projects it proposed for Great Bend in Meigs County, Ohio, and its 1,300-MW Mountaineer Plant near New Haven, W.Va., currently are on hold. Ironically, a separate carbon sequestration demonstration project, also at the Mountaineer Plant, is scheduled to begin operation in September.

Both projects won early regulatory approvals. In April 2006, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved AEP’s request to charge its customers $23 million for Great Bend’s pre-construction costs. A year later, the Ohio Power Siting Board approved the project’s site selection. In March, 2008, the West Virginia PSC granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the Mountaineer project.

But then things began to unravel. In 2008, the Ohio Supreme Court sent the project back to the PUCO for further review. At issue is whether the project can qualify for rate recovery as a regulated utility asset under the state’s still-changing electric deregulation statutes. That, along with the economic downturn and decreased electrical demand, prompted AEP to