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Permitting

Defying the Odds

Reports of coal’s demise are exaggerated. This summer, Dominion cleared the regulatory gauntlet to start up a new coal plant. Whether the example can be replicated might hinge on state incentives—and the forward price of natural gas.

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Figure 1 - Coal-Fired Emissions Progress
One of very few coal-fired power plants commissioned in recent years, the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center uses air-cooled condensers (the green-topped structures) to reduce water consumption to one-tenth that of a comparable coal-fired plant.
A wood tipper delivers wood waste to the Virginia City circulating fluidized bed plant, which can burn up to 20 percent biomass along with coal.
The Virginia City plant’s fluidized bed boiler produces a much larger volume of solid waste than a most comparable pulverized coal plant would, due to the higher ash content of the coals used and partly because of the limestone sorbent mixed with fuel during combustion. At Virginia City, solid waste is stored onsite in a specially designed, 158-acre landfill.
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Coping with Carbon at Virginia City
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The Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center was already under construction when EPA issued its proposed rule regulating carbon dioxide at new sources, and therefore it isn’t subject to those restrictions. This facility is, however, well situated to deal with its carbon dioxide emissions, and the station’s owner, Dominion Resources, has supported research to establish a viable means of capturing and storing CO2.

While plans for the power station were proceeding and the permitting process was underway, carbon sequestration research funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy was being undertaken near the Virginia City site. This work was conducted by the Virginia Center for Coal & Energy Research at Virginia Tech, and led by the Center’s Director Dr. Michael Karmis. It was coordinated by Southern States Energy Board and was part of the Southeastern Carbon Sequestration Partnership (SECARB). Dominion Resources provided matching funds for the investigation.

Karmis and his team succeeded in establishing the feasibility of sequestering carbon dioxide in un-mineable coal seams in central Appalachia. Estimated capacity of nearby seams to sequester carbon dioxide far exceeds the production of this gas over the lifetime of the Virginia City facility. The Virginia Tech team now is working to demonstrate using CO2 injection to enhance production of coal-bed methane from the area, while also sequestering the carbon dioxide.

Carbon capture technologies haven’t yet been tested at the Virginia City site. But to position the facility to take advantage of its proximity to coal seams that have proven suitable for sequestration, Dominion designed the plant with carbon capture in mind, and space has been set aside for installation of such equipment when it becomes commercially available—and upon approval by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.–HW

Author Bio: 

Herbert Wheary (haggiscat@live.com) is a private consultant on energy policy in Richmond, Va. The opinions in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Commonwealth of Virginia or Dominion Resources.

Virginia brings a new coal-fired plant online.

Multi-pollutant Emissions Control

Conflicting demands for complying with EPA’s MATS rule favor a single control technology to deal with multiple types of power plant emissions.

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Technology Corridor
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Kevin Crapsey is vice president of corporate strategy and development at Eco Power Solutions.

MATS compliance now, with flexibility for the future.

Least-Risk Planning

The D.C. Circuit’s CSAPR ruling reinforces the benefits of planning ahead and keeping options open. A diverse portfolio strategy reduces risks and costs.

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Ken Colburn (kcolburn@raponline.org) and David Farnsworth are senior associates at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP). John Shenot is an associate, Camille Kadoch is a research and policy analyst, Elizabeth Watson is energy and environment fellow, and Rebecca Wigg is a communications associate at RAP.

The Homer City decision increases uncertainty—but rewards forward thinking.