ION Engineering sets up CO2 test project at Nebraska coal plant

ION Engineering (ION) said Sept. 25 that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (DOE-FE) will provide $15m to support a CO2 capture, 1 MWe pilot project at Nebraska Public Power District’s coal-fired Gerald Gentleman Station in Sutherland, Neb.

ION and partners will contribute another $4m in matching funds bringing the total to $19m for the 45-month project. In addition to NPPD, partners include the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the University of Alabama Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Previously, ION has received $5m from DOE-FE to develop its advanced solvent process. During the past year, working in collaboration with the EERC and using their coal- and natural gas-fired Combustion Test Facility, ION has demonstrated that its technology is capable of achieving greater CO2 capture rates using less power plant energy relative to other solvent systems currently in development.

“The results obtained at the EERC demonstrate that ION’s advanced solvent has the potential to significantly reduce capital costs, operating costs and the parasitic load on an operating power plant that implements ION’s technology. When combined with CO2 utilization opportunities such as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), we can imagine a time when the incremental cost of carbon free fossil fuel electricity generation may be much less than previously considered,” said ION Engineering CEO Dr. Alfred “Buz” Brown. “By providing an affordable path to carbon free coal- and natural gas-generated power, we can have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions worldwide.”

“NPPD is interested in the project because our coal burning generating resources bring significant value to our customers,” said NPPD Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent. “We also want technologies that can capture CO2 in a cost-effective manner. Testing such technologies should be done on a larger scale to collect ‘real world’ data. We are pleased to be a participant in this project and hope to learn if the potential exists to capture carbon and advance the technologies in this area for the power industry.”

“ION Engineering’s exciting, job-creating project holds the promise of vastly improving our abilities to sequester more carbon and help reduce the effects of traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas on our climate,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who serves on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “Global warming is one of the most significant challenges of our time. This competitive grant supporting ION Engineering’s technology development shows how Colorado is at the forefront of finding solutions and creating jobs.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 20 unveiled new proposed greenhouse gas reduction rules for gas- and coal-fired plants, with industry observers saying that coal plants can’t meet these new rules without carbon capture systems like the one ION is testing. Commercial viability for such technologies, where lenders will be willing to front money to build such systems with guarantees that those systems will actually work, is at least ten years away, said power industry leaders.

NPPD’s Gerald Gentleman Station is Nebraska’s largest generating plant. Located near Sutherland, Neb., the plant consists of two coal-fired units, which together total 1,365 MW of capacity. Coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin provides fuel for the plant.

The demonstration project will be operated by ION Engineering and will be designed so that the CO2-capture equipment will divert a small percentage of the exhaust gas from the 700-MW Unit 2. Less than one-half of a percent of the exhaust gas will be diverted  for CO2 capture and then will be returned to the unit’s exhaust. It is anticipated this process will have minimal impact on the plant’s operations.

The facility footprint needed for the demonstration project is small and will utilize sectionalized pre-fabricated CO2-capture equipment delivered by tractor trailer and modular home-styled offices for personnel and data management equipment. Personnel from the ION Engineering and EERC will monitor the project and analyze testing results.

The project will begin Oct. 1 and will be conducted in three phases (e.g. site prep/design; construction; testing/deconstruction) with each phase lasting about 15 months, with the project concluding June 30, 2017. NPPD said it will be securing the appropriate permits for the pilot project with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Based at the center of the emerging alternative energy industry in Colorado, ION Engineering said it is leading the development of CO2 capture technology capable of reducing emissions from industrial and fossil power generation sources. The company’s advanced proprietary processes are suitable for post-combustion capture carbon from coal- and gas-fired power plants and pre-combustion natural gas treating.

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.