Last Thursday the Mississippi Public Service Commission issued a formal order saying the gasification technology should be abandoned because of high costs and technical problems and goes on to instruct the Mississippi Power to negotiate a settlement in 45 days.
After spending $7.5 billion and failing the plant will now be converted to run on natural gas. The plant was initially supposed to cost $1.8 billion , but costs kept ballooning. Southern Company and its shareholders have already absorbed $3.1 billion in losses and will probably have to write off an the additional cost overruns expected to total $3.4 billion, because the Mississippi Public Service Commissioners will not allow those costs into the rate base. However, it is expected the Kemper plant will be fully converted to operate on natural gas and Southern Company still hopes to be allowed to put $800 million in the rate base. The Kemper plant has been supplying gas powered electricity since 2014.
TRIG technology involved turning coal into synthetic gas before burning it to produce electricity and one unit of the plant has been operating on natural gas. The Kemper plant was designed to capture 65% of total CO2 emissions of the plant 3-3.5 million tons per year of captured CO2 and reducing the CO2 emissions per megawatt for the coal plant to under 800 pounds if the plant had performed as designed. The Kemper plant was designed to be the cleanest coal plant ever built.
The Obama administration partnered with Southern Company to prove the “clean coal” technology and the viability of the technology is important to the Trump administration’s promise to revive the coal industry. The design did not work and the plant is uneconomical with the price of natural gas under $3. It remains to be seen if there is any future in “clean coal” technology.