Southern works out deal to deploy coal gasification in South Korea

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) said Dec. 21 that subsidiary Southern Generation Technologies has signed a letter of intent with South Korean company Alps Energy and Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC (KBR) to evaluate the deployment of the company’s proprietary coal gasification technology at the new, 1,000-MW Alps Energy plant in the Saemangeum Industry & Research Area in South Korea.

The agreement underscores the significant international interest in Transport Integrated Gasification (TRIG), the technology at the center of Southern subsidiary Mississippi Power‘s Kemper County energy facility. The 582-MW Kemper County energy facility will become the first power plant to use TRIG technology upon its anticipated completion in 2016.

Jointly developed by Southern and KBR, TRIG is designed to generate electricity from low-rank coal with resulting carbon emissions better than a similarly sized natural gas plant. At least 65% of the Kemper project’s carbon emissions are expected to be captured and repurposed through enhanced oil recovery. 

“Southern Company is committed to developing real solutions to efficiently generate electricity using all of our domestic energy resources,” said Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. “By deploying TRIG™ for the first time at the Kemper County energy facility, we are creating a better energy future and improving America’s energy security. Our partnership with South Korea’s Alps Energy is a continuation of our long-standing commitment to delivering energy solutions that can benefit customers and communities across the U.S. and around the world.”

The letter of intent was announced following a visit to the Kemper County energy facility involving Southern, Alps Energy, KBR and Saemangeum Development and Investment Agency leadership.

“Alps is very excited to have entered into this agreement with Southern Company and KBR, who are global leaders in gasification and have successfully demonstrated fluidized bed gasifiers over many decades. We very much look forward to seeing successful initial operations of the Kemper County energy facility and to explore various opportunities to work together with the TRIG™ team in our landmark gasification project in Saemangeum,” said Alps Group Chairman Kwang-Ouk Bang.

“The world is coming to Kemper because the design of this plant signifies the ability for other nations to leverage one of the world’s most abundant energy sources in a dramatically cleaner way,” said Mississippi Power CEO Ed Holland. “For Mississippi, this means more reliable, affordable energy for our customers and a cleaner environment for us all, making our state a true global leader in energy development.”    

The first letter of intent to explore TRIG deployment, the agreement with Alps Energy represents the sixth agreement with a leading international energy company to explore advanced technologies including TRIG. Earlier this year, Southern Company Services and Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) signed a memorandum of understanding to explore 21st century coal technology. Last year, Southern Co. announced similar agreements with Shenhua Group Corporation Ltd. and China Huaneng Group – two of China’s largest energy companies – as well as with Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute.

Beyond these agreements, Southern Company continues to receive worldwide interest in TRIG from energy companies in regions with access to abundant supplies of low-rank coal.

“TRIG™ brings a unique solution to a global challenge – how to efficiently gasify low-rank coal while helping preserve the environment,” said KBR President of Technology and Consulting John Derbyshire. “Low-rank coal comprises about half of the world coal supply, and today there are no technologies apart from TRIG™ that can efficiently convert this coal into energy with minimal impact on the environment. We believe TRIG™ can help South Korea and other countries with access to low-rank coal to meet their energy challenges.”  

Alps Group, based in Seoul, South Korea, is a leading developer of energy and commercial real estate projects. Alps has successfully developed and owned various commercial office buildings and hotels in Korea and China since the 1980’s. Alps is the owner of the Alps Ski Resort, the first ski resort of Korea, and is also the owner and developer of Goseong Alps Wind Power, a wind farm located in the vicinity of the resort, with a generation capacity of 112 MW, which makes it the largest single wind farm in the country. Through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Alps Energy, Alps is currently developing a large scale coal-gasification project in the Saemangeum Area of South Korea. When completed, the project will be the largest coal gasification complex and the largest public-private-partnership development project ever undertaken within the new and renewable energy space in South Korea.

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.