GE Energy and the University of Wyoming on November 13 announced an agreement to further cleaner coal technology, making coal-fired power generation more viable in America. Under the agreement, GE and the university will develop the High Plains Gasification Advanced Technology Center to accelerate the commercial use of cleaner coal technology.
In the United States, coal supplies more than 50 percent of the country’s current electricity generation and it plays an important role in meeting the nation’s energy needs. Coal is an abundant, low-cost, domestic, natural resource that continues to be a significant part of America’s energy mix.
Wyoming is uniquely positioned in the nation’s energy landscape and has vast coal resources capable of supporting a substantial portion of the nation’s energy needs. The state produces approximately 40 percent of all of the coal used in the United States to generate electricity.
The new center will include a small-scale gasification system that will enable researchers from GE and the university to develop advanced gasification solutions for Powder River Basin and other Wyoming coals. The research is expected to expand the range of coals that can be used with GE’s integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology for power plants. The facility is expected to be operational by 2012.
To create a path forward for coal, future climate change policy will be needed to incentivize the deployment of already-available low carbon technology and to foster further improvements that will bring down the cost of carbon capture and sequestration.
“This project underscores the commitment of both the University of Wyoming and GE to work toward U.S. energy independence and plan for future energy needs,” said Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Energy’s Power & Water business. “We believe that our country’s energy and environmental policies should promote a balance of available, reliable, cleaner and low-cost energy. The use of cleaner coal technology helps create jobs, support economic growth and positively impacts the environment.”
GE is a world leader in IGCC technology and has been at the forefront of IGCC technology since the Coolwater project, a 120 MW technical demonstration IGCC project started in 1984. GE's IGCC technology also has operated at the 250-megawatt (MW) TECO Polk I station in Florida for more than 12 years. Today, GE offers a 630 MW IGCC reference plant that produces 75 percent less SOx, 33 percent less NOx, 40 percent less particulate matter, uses 30 percent less water and offers 90 percent mercury capture, compared to a traditional pulverized coal plant.
In addition to providing a cleaner alternative for power generation, IGCC is well-suited for carbon capture. Carbon capture technology is in use in GE’s industrial gasification applications around the world today. IGCC technology will offer cost and efficiency advantages for carbon capture and storage, once clear policies and regulations are in place to support storage and an economically viable value is established for carbon.
Although IGCC technology is relatively new, gasification is more than a century old. The process uses pressure, heat and steam to convert carbon-based materials like coal into a synthesis gas (syngas) that has a variety of uses including the production of chemicals or fertilizers and power generation.