MAC: Mines and Communities

Illinois Clean Coal Power Plant Wins First Permit

Published by MAC on 2007-06-11

Illinois Clean Coal Power Plant Wins First Permit


11th June 2007

Illinois has issued the nation's first permit for a commercial clean coal generating plant. The air pollution limits set by this permit are much lower than those for conventional coal plants because high-sulfur Illinois coal will be turned into a synthetic gas before it is burned.

The air permit authorizes Christian County Generation to build the $2 billion coal gasification plant known as the Taylorville Energy Center, TEC.

"The Taylorville Energy Center will turn coal into a gas that can be more cleanly burned to generate power, which helps protect public and the environment," said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott, announcing the new permit June 5.

TEC is a proposed 630 megawatt facility that would be among the world's most environmentally friendly coal plants.

"Illinois has among the largest reserves of coal in the world and being able to safely use this domestic energy source is a critical part of my energy plan," said Governor Rod Blagojevich.

"The Taylorville Energy Center, using cutting edge clean-coal gasification technology, is a great example of how we can grow our economy and create good paying jobs while protecting our environment," he said.

"The air we all breathe will be cleaner because gasification plants remove pollutants and impurities prior to combustion, resulting in significantly lower mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions than conventional coal plants," Scott said.

The project, near the small central Illinois city of Taylorville, still requires legislation. State Representative Gary Hannig, a Taylorville Democrat, has sponsored the Clean Coal Program Law, which would let developers enter into long-term, regulated cost-based contracts with large Illinois electric utilities.

If that bill passes during this session, construction on the plant could begin later this year, and could be operational soon as 2012, officials say.

Unlike conventional coal-fired power plants, IGCC plants have the future potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide that can be permanently stored underground in mature oil fields or deep saline aquifers.

In addition to vast coal reserves, Illinois' geology is well-suited for carbon sequestration, making Illinois an ideal place to build coal gasification plants.

"This is a landmark day for the State of Illinois and the Taylorville Energy Center. This permit sets the standard by which other IGCC power plants will be judged," said Greg Kunkel, vice president of independent power producer Tenaska, the managing partner of Christian County Generation.

The plant would create 1,500 construction jobs, 120 permanent jobs at the plant and 160 new mining jobs.

The Regional Development Institute at Northern Illinois University says that, once operational, the plant would add $356 million annually to the area's economy, and create nearly 800 additional indirect jobs in central Illinois.

John Thompson, director of the Coal Transition Project for the Clean Air Task Force, said, "If this plant breaks ground, people from around the world will come to Illinois to learn how we can solve some of the most significant global environmental problems facing the 21st century."

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