Can Kemper Become the First US Power Plant to Use ‘Clean Coal’?


The Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg recently published an article on Mississippi Power’s clean coal carbon capture facility due to open in Kemper County, Mississippi later this year.

“The massive block of steel towers and pipes rises out of the morning fog like a sci-fi fantasy. But this coal-fired power plant could help save the climate, or at least that’s the hope of the Obama administration.”

New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations have provided the opportunity for Mississippi to house the United States’ first power plant capable of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions.

“The EPA says the Kemper County Energy Facility offers a real-life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels and still make the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions needed to avoid a climate catastrophe.”

While there have been concerns that the cost of building the facility would prevent the expansion of such an industry, there is still a lot of excitement about the opening and how this plant will play against other commonly used energy sources such as natural gas.

“But the plant will strip out about two-thirds of carbon dioxide emissions, leaving emissions at about the same level as cleaner-burning natural gas, Southern Company said.

“The carbon footprint is essentially the same or maybe even less than a natural gas plant that doesn’t have carbon capture,” said Randall Rush, the Southern Company engineer who spent 25 years bringing the plant to life.”

 For some, this concept sounds almost too good to be true, but John Thompson of the Clean Air Task Force tackled those questions:

“It would be pretty hard to argue that this technology does not exist when it is standing there on 55 acres and many many (stories) towering above you.”

This project has also emphasized the importance of the coal industry in the United States, for which the Kemper Project has become a life line.  Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, touched on that topic.

“Rather than killing future coal, [the new rules] actually sets out a certain pathway forward for coal to continue to be part of a diverse mix in this country.”

Amoi Geter, a spokesperson for Mississippi Coal seconded this opinion when interviewed for this article:

“We definitely see the Kemper County energy facility as a way forward to keep coal as part of a viable, energy mix. It may not be the only way but it is definitely a way.”

With 150 coal-powered plants shut down since 2010, Kemper has taken on the challenge of improving coal technology and reducing the nation’s reliance on natural gas.

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