First off, the Kemper County Energy Facility has a few names. Aside from being coined the Kemper County Energy Facility, it is also referred to as the Kemper Project, the Kemper Coal Plant, Plant Ratcliffe, Kemper IGCC Project, Kemper County Lignite Facility and Kemper IGCC. The plant uses lignite as its fuel source, an extremely abundant natural resource found in Mississippi.
The Kemper project will demonstrate TRIG™ (Transport Integrated Gasification), a coal gasification process developed jointly by Southern Company and KBR in partnership with the US Department of Energy (DOE). TRIG™ was a 15 year plus development effort at the Power Systems Development Facility (PSDF) in Alabama (now the National Carbon Capture Center) where the technology operated successfully for over 20,000 hours at pilot scale. The Kemper plant will use two commercial-scale TRIG™ units to gasify lignite (low-rank coal that is mined next to the facility) to produce syngas. After the syngas leaves the gasifiers, it will be cleaned and used as fuel for two combined-cycle power generating units with a net output of 582-megawatts of electricity.
Read more at Global CCS Institute.
The Kemper Plant investment can be attributed to the need for a diverse energy portfolio. The investing company, the Mississippi Power Company, says:
Mississippi Lignite will provide decades of low-cost fuel and avoid huge price swings associated with unpredictable fuel markets. It is the lowest cost fuel available – and with a 4-billion-ton reserve in Mississippi we can secure a stable fuel source while reducing our dependence on foreign fuel.
Wow! A 4 billion ton reserve? To put that into perspective, a whale weighs about 1 ton. It will also provide energy to Mississippi for hundreds of years.
There are six thousand workers onsite during the construction phase. Once operations begin, there will be three hundred permanent personnel. The plant is creating jobs for Mississippi.
Lignite is often referred to as brown coal. It is a soft brown fuel with characteristics that put it somewhere between anthracite and peat. There are many other countries in the world that have an abundance of lignite. For instance, up to 50% of Greece’s electricity and 25.7% of Germany’s comes from lignite power plants (see Wikipedia).
The Kemper Plant is slated to go online in 2015. It was originally set to be operational in 2014, but due to unexpected weather, the plant’s timeline has been delayed.
Mississippi has a 4 billion ton reserve of lignite.
Mississippi Power CEO Ed Holland explains:
“The lignite will be gasified and the resulting syngas will be burned to generate the electricity,” he said. “The process will generate considerably lower amounts of CO2 and other emissions.” The CO2 will be sold to companies like Denbury Resources for use in enhanced oil recovery operations, resulting in US $2 billion in revenues from CO2 sales over 40 years.”
A local blog puts Kemper on the scale of global importance, mitigating potential conflicts over energy. The blog points specifically to its use of local resources and the revolutionary Carbon Capture & Sequestration (CCS) technology:
The new facility being built in Kemper County is crucial to the future of coal as a domestic energy resource. Jonathon Pershing of the U.S. Department of Energy observed CCS technology is central to the continued reliance on coal for American power. General Lawson cited the potential impact of Kemper on global energy security and the ripple effect that success might have on obviating future global conflicts.