Duke readies coal gasifier start at Edwardsport IGCC

With construction of Duke Energy’s (NYSE: DUK) Edwardsport coal gasification power plant virtually complete, extensive testing is under way to prepare for commercial operations next year, Duke said on Oct. 17.

The plant has successfully produced electricity using natural gas, and the next phase is testing the coal-gasification equipment. The first coal-gasification test may occur as early as the week of Oct. 15.

When the coal is converted into a synthetic gas, it is sent to the gas turbines. However, if the synthetic gas does not meet certain standards, it is diverted to the gas flare tower on the plant property, where it is ignited and burned safely. The gas flare also is used during each start-up and shut-down of the plant. This gas flare will be bright and somewhat loud.

“I want to emphasize that whenever the gas flare is activated, it does not indicate any emergency at the plant,” said Edwardsport Plant Manager Jack Stultz in a warning to residents around the plant, who have gotten used to years of this being a regular coal-fired plant. “It is a normal part of plant operations. Because the gas flare may need to be activated quickly, we won’t be able to provide advance notice to local residents. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience.”

The Edwardsport plant is the first major new coal-fired power plant built in Indiana in more than two decades and is a key part of the effort to modernize the state’s aging electric system, Duke Energy Indiana noted. It offers a way to produce cleaner energy and comply with new and pending federal environmental regulations while still using an abundant local resource, coal.

In November 2007, Duke Energy received approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to build this integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) unit at the former 160-MW Edwardsport plant in Knox County. This 618-MW IGCC facility will be one of the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the world. The old coal capacity at the plant has been retired.

Notable is that Duke is battling various critics at the Indiana URC about cost over-runs for the Edwardsport project, with not all of the commission review of the project costs completed yet.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.