Thursday, December 03, 2015

Clean coal project in rural Mississippi two years behind schedule, over budget by $4.7 billion

A rural Mississippi power plant that is now at least two years behind schedule of opening was supposed to show "the world how to burn coal without spewing climate-warming carbon pollution into the air," reports The Associated Press. Construction costs are already three times above original estimates—at $6.5 billion—making the Kemper County (Wikipedia map) plant "one of the most expensive power plants ever built and pushing up electric bills for Mississippi Power's 186,000 customers."

"Carbon capture entails catching the carbon emissions from a power plant or cement or steel factory and injecting them underground for permanent storage," reports AP. "It's a proven technology that would allow the world to keep burning coal, oil and gas for energy while releasing little of the heat-trapping gas that scientists say is the main cause of global warming. Despite decades of research and pilot projects, however, carbon capture is still waiting for its breakthrough, illustrating how hard it is for the world to do something about global warming even when the tools are there."

While environmental groups have opposed clean coal, pushing for 100 percent renewable energy, spiraling costs shut down carbon capture projects in Norway and Britain, reports AP. "But authoritative bodies like the International Energy Agency and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that without deploying carbon capture technology on a large scale, the world may not be able to reach the U.N. goal of keeping man-made warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which governments hope will stave off some of the worst floods, droughts and heat waves associated with rising temperatures."

In Kempter County, the estimated price tag for the plant when it was announced in 2006 was $1.8 billion, reports AP. That rose to $2.9 billion when construction began in 2010, with costs including improved carbon capture technology and an adjoining coal mine. "In a sprint to grab federal tax credits, Mississippi Power started construction with only 10 percent of the design completed. The company underestimated how much concrete, steel, pipe and cable and how many workers it would need to build the plant. Some parts had to be torn out and rebuilt because of design changes associated with constructing a first-of-its-kind plant."

While Mississippi Power officials say they are wrapping up work on the project, "an engineer hired by state regulators testified in October that it is highly unlikely the utility will meet its June 30 deadline," reports AP. "The project is likely to forfeit $372 million in tax credits because of delays, and shareholders of Southern Co., owner of Mississippi Power, have absorbed $2.3 billion in losses."

No comments: