Mississippi Power announces ‘first fire’ for Kemper gasifiers

Southern (NYSE:SO) utility subsidiary Mississippi Power said March 9 that it has successfully performed ‘first fire’ at the gasifiers that will convert lignite coal to synthesis gas, or syngas, for use in power generation at a landmark project.

The first fire and associated activity at the Kemper County integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) power project mark a major step toward completion of the advanced coal project in the first half of 2016, Mississippi Power said in a news release.

 The burners for both of the project’s gasifiers functioned as predicted in their first test, completing another important step toward finishing the 582-MW project, which experienced its share of scheduling and cost issues.

The most recent headache associated with development of the coal gasification project came Feb. 12 when the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the state Public Service Commission has not properly justified certain rate increases connected with the Kemper project.

The state high court said that Mississippi Power first asked the commission to approve the Kemper project at a projected net cost of $2.2bn. In its most recent “Monthly Status Report” to the commission dated Feb. 3, 2015, Mississippi Power now projects the costs at more than $6.17bn, a 281% increase from the original net cost estimate.

About 2,500 workers continue to work on the plant, the company said.

The Kemper County energy facility will be capable of powering thousands of homes and businesses with electricity derived from an underutilized and affordable Mississippi resource,” said Mississippi Power President and CEO Ed Holland. “The full operation of Kemper will represent more than the final milestone for this project. I believe it will be a transformational moment in the history of energy production.”

The gasifiers will transform lignite mined adjacent to the plant into syngas, which will fuel the plant’s turbines to generate clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

“It’s like sticking a lighter out a moving car’s window, lighting it, and then keeping it lit,” said Joe Miller, Kemper startup manager, in describing the complexity of igniting the project’s startup pilot burners. “It is exciting to see more than 20 years of engineering and testing now taking shape at this first-of-its-kind facility.”

Another major milestone is expected to be achieved with the production of syngas when lignite is added to the gasifier later this year.

The facility’s advanced technology is designed to capture 65% of carbon dioxide emissions, which could be repurposed for use in enhanced oil recovery.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.