Illinois coal group, Sargas push for 80-MW coal project

The Illinois Coal Association has told the Illinois Commerce Commission that a procurement plan for state power customers from the Illinois Power Agency unfairly discriminates against coal.

The Illinois Power Agency applied Sept. 29 for approval of that procurement plan, with various parties moving since then to intervene in the case. The coal association on Oct. 6 filed both to intervene and its objections to the plan. IPA’s plan covers procurement of power for certain customers for the period 2015-2020.

“A Sargas project under development in Mattoon, Illinois would result in a commercial scale clean coal technology power plant at Mattoon, Illinois,” the association said. “Sargas has asked the IPA to include a competitive procurement process for clean coal technology in the Plan and the IPA has declined. The ICA believes the Commission has the responsibility and authority to modify the Plan to include a competitive procurement process for clean coal technology. The Commission’s decisions regarding the Plan will have a great effect on the development of clean coal technology in Illinois and consequently, ICA has an interest in the subject matter of this docket.”

The Illinois coal industry and its employment economics will be negatively affected by the announced retirements of existing coal-fired generating facilities, and recently promulgated (and expected) federal emissions guidelines are expected to have a significant negative effect on any new coal projects that lack clean coal features, ICA said.

“The importance of clean coal was clearly recognized and acted upon by the Illinois legislature in its creation of the clean coal features and procurement procedures via the Illinois Power Agency Act and related legislation,” the coal association added. “The IPA’s recently proposed 2015 Procurement Plan ignores clean coal entirely, relying on a statutory interpretation that makes impossible the achievement of the legislative purpose of having 25% clean coal power in Illinois by 2025. By the interpretation submitted, no new projects will ever be defined as clean coal in order to participate in competitive procurement to be conducted by the IPA.”

The filings are signed by Phillip Gonet, President of the Illinois Coal Association.

Sargas Inc., a subsidiary of Norway’s Sargas AS, on Oct. 8 filed its own petition to intervene and objection in this case, also pointing out IPA’s refusal to include its project in the procurement plan. Sargas said it is developing, with help from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Illinois Clean Coal Review Board, a coal plant at Mattoon, Ill. The plant would use the company’s pressurized fluidized bed combustion technology, with over 90% of the CO2 from the plant captured for use in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) or for simple geologic storage. EOR sites have been identified in Illinois near the power plant site.

The technology and design allows for employment of this system in 80-MW increments, with the initial plan for Mattoon being one 80-MW module. The CO2-capture system would use an inorganic, mineral-based adsorbent.

Sargas said it doesn’t seek special treatment in the IPA power procurement process, just a chance to lodge a bid. IPA’s plan “usurps” state mandates by excluding such a bid, the company added. It noted that a prior IPA procurement plan from 2013 met the legislative “clean coal” mandate by including the planned FutureGen 2.0 coal project, which involves a partial repowering of the Meredosia power plant with U.S. Department of Energy backing.

Sargas said it proposes that IPA include competitive procurement of up to 100 MW of electricity involving coal with CO2 capture within the IPA procurement plan. Then any successful bidder under that option could get a 20-year power sales contract.

A company contact is: Paul Gandola, President, Sargas Inc., 440-725-0599, pgandola@ix.netcom.com.

The Sargas project, plus FutureGen 2.0, are among a handful of coal-fueled power projects still planned in the U.S. following a series of new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiatives that have made such plants almost impossible to permit and finance. EPA, in a re-worked plan unveiled in January, proposes to require that all new coal plants have some level of carbon capture and storage capability.

Said IPA in the Sept. 29 plan: “The IPA Act contains an aspirational goal that cost‐effective clean coal resources will account for 25% of the electricity used in Illinois by January 1, 2025. As a part of the goal, the Plan must also include electricity generated from clean coal facilities. While there is a broader definition of ‘clean coal facility’ contained in the definition section of the IPA Act, Section 1‐75(d) describes two special cases: the ‘initial clean coal facility’ and ‘electricity generated by power plants that were previously owned by Illinois utilities and that have been or will be converted into clean coal facilities (‘retrofit clean coal facility’).’ Currently, there is no facility meeting the definition of an  ‘initial clean coal facility,’  that the IPA is aware of, that has announced plans to begin operations within the next five years. In Docket No. 12‐0544, the Commission approved inclusion of FutureGen 2.0 as a retrofit clean coal facility starting in the 2017 delivery year; the Illinois Appellate Court recently upheld the cost recovery mechanism used in that docket’s Order.”

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.