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Kemper Project generates first electricity from syngas

By   /   October 13, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo by Mississippi Power

OVERHEAD: The Kemper Project integrated coal gasification power plant is designed to burn lignite to fuel its electricity-generating turbines.

Mississippi Power said Wednesday that it was able to generate electricity using synthesis gas made from lignite at its Kemper Project clean coal power plant.

The news release was big on fanfare and extremely short on specifics. The company said that one of the $6.886 billion plant’s two gasifiers, which convert lignite coal mined on site into a natural gas-like substance called synthesis gas to fuel its electricity generating turbines, was used to produce syngas.

The company didn’t elaborate in the release about any specifics, such as how much syngas was used to generate the electricity and whether it was able to sell any of the byproducts from the gas stream — such as carbon dioxide, sulfuric acid and anhydrous ammonia — to outside firms.

The company didn’t return emails or calls seeking specifics what the company deems a “major milestone” in the construction and commissioning of the plant, which was originally scheduled to go online in May 2014. It will be more than two years behind schedule when it becomes operational.

The company said the next steps for the integrated coal gasification plant north of Meridian include getting the second gasifier producing syngas and running the turbines solely on syngas. The utility will also have to complete integration of the plant’s other components — such as the gas cleanup system, which removes gas cleanup systems that scrub carbon dioxide and toxic byproducts such as sulfuric acid and anhydrous ammonia from the gas feed — before it reaches commercial operation.

“The generation of electricity using syngas is just the latest example of our company’s commitment to deliver on our promise that Kemper will provide Mississippi Power customers with safe, reliable energy for decades to come,” said Mississippi Power president Anthony Wilson in the news release.

The turbines have been operational since August 2014, fueled by natural gas. The company has said repeatedly since December 2015 that the plant is a dual-fuel plant even though natural gas was not mentioned as a fuel source in the original order that authorized its construction.

Related: Mississippi Power touts Kemper Project’s dual-fuel capability

The Mississippi Public Service Commission said in an order in August 2014 and reiterated in a public meeting last month in Meridian that the plant would have to be commercially operational before the PSC decides in a prudency hearing whether the company and its stockholders will pay for most of the multibillion plant’s capital costs, or its 186,000 ratepayers in south Mississippi will pay through rate increases.

Related: Mississippi regulators seek customer input on Kemper Project

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, announced in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the plant’s commercial operation date would be delayed until Nov. 30 and cost an additional $33 million.

The plant, according to the company’s announcement in December 2006, was supposed to cost $1.8 billion.

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Steve Wilson is the Mississippi reporter for Watchdog.org. Beginning his career as a sports writer, he has worked for the Mobile Press-Register (Ala.), the LaGrange Daily News (Ga.), Highlands Today (Fla.),McComb Enterprise-Journal (Miss.), the Biloxi Sun Herald(Miss.) and the Vicksburg Post (Miss.) Steve's work has appeared on Fox News, the Huffington Post and the Daily Signal. His bachelor's degree is in journalism with a minor in political science from the University of Alabama. Steve is also a member of the Mississippi Press Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He served four-plus years in the United States Coast Guard after his high school graduation and is a native of Mobile, Ala.