Edwardsport IGCC Project Start Marks Delayed, Costly Milestone for Coal Generation

Duke Energy’s long-awaited but controversial and cost-overrun-plagued integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plant began commercial operation on June 7 in Knox County, Ind.

The 618-MW advanced technology coal gasification plant—the first major new coal-fired power plant built in Indiana in more than two decades—is one of the “world’s cleanest,” Duke energy said in a statement.

Duke Energy received approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to build the IGCC facility in 2007. The plant was built on the site of a coal plant built in 1918 that is no longer operational. Three other operating units built there between 1944 and 1951 were retired in 2011.

The plant is expected to build up to its long-term level of availability over the next 15 months. Edwardsport uses a Clauss sulfur removal system, activated carbon beds for mercury removal, and a power block tailored for reducing nitrogen oxides.

The company broke ground on the project in June 2008, anticipating that it would use 1.5 million tons of coal per year to generate 630 MW when opened in 2012. But Duke’s $3.4 billion project has faced cost overruns and delays, as well as legal challenges and an ethical scandal. The company, which last year completed a $32 billion merger with Progress Energy, had originally estimated project costs at $1.985 billion.

A 2012 settlement proposed to end five years of litigation involving the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, the Duke Energy Industrial Group (which consists of six of the utility’s large industrial customers), Nucor Steel, and Duke Energy put a $2.595 billion cap on project costs to be included in electric rates. The IURC in December 2012 ruled that Duke Energy would bear all cost overruns, not its customers.

The Edwardsport project’s start marks a noteworthy milestone for IGCC technology, which, according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), has a number of environmental benefits, including carbon capture. IGCC also has the ability to use a variety of feedstocks and has a high efficiency relative to other power generation technologies.

Yet only a handful of IGCC power plants exist in the U.S., including the 1999-commissioned Wabash River Power Station in West Terre Haute, Ind.; the 1996-commissioned Polk Power Station in Tampa, Fla.; and Piñon Pine in Reno, Nev. The Wabash plant cost $438 million, including construction and operation during a four-year-long demonstration period. The Polk plant cost $303 million, including all equipment procurement, installation, and operation throughout its four-year initial demonstration. The Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Technology Demonstration Program in 2003 also completed the 107-MW Piñon Pine IGCC project in Reno, Nev., at a cost of $335 million.

Southern Co. is currently building a 583-MW lignite-fired IGCC plant in Kemper County, Miss. That project is slated to go online in mid-2014, but like Edwardsport, it has seen cost overruns of nearly $1 billion.

Two other U.S. IGCC projects are also under development: Summit Power’s Texas Clean Energy Project and SCS Energy’s Hydrogen Energy California. Both plan on coproduction of urea fertilizer and the sale of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

Around the world, ELCOGAS’  Puertollano IGCC plant in Spain was first fired with syngas in 1998. Total capital cost for that plant, neglecting interest during construction, worked out to $1,850/kW in 1991 dollars, according to the DOE. The Netherlands also has a 253-MW IGCC plant that began service in 1994 as a demonstration facility in Buggenum. China’s Huaneng Group demonstrated successful startup of its GreenGen IGCC plant in Tianjin City in April 2012.

Several IGCC plants are in the pipeline worldwide, however, including the highly ambitious Energy Power Research Centre (EPRC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences clean coal energy demonstration project in Jiangsu Province. That project intends to include a 1,200?MW IGCC power plant built alongside two 1,300?MW ultrasupercritical (USC) pulverized coal power plants and a 10?MW solar unit to maximize heat integration between the IGCC, USC, and solar heat collector to improve efficiency.

See pictures of the Edwardsport facility here.

Sources: POWERnews, COAL POWER, NETL, Duke Energy

Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

NOTE: This story was originally published on June 12