DOE Ramps Up "Clean Coal" Initiatives

The Department of Energy recently announced that $154 million in funding will head toward Thompsons, Texas, where NRG Energy will build a post-combustion carbon capture and sequestration project. The CCS technology will theoretically scrub clean the emissions from NRG's W. A. Parish Unit 7, a coal-fired power plant.

The plant will use a company called Fluor Corporation's to capture the emitted carbon dioxide, and the company's press release [PDF] says it will be capable of grabbing 90 percent of the CO2. For the plant in question, this will be equivalent to about 400,000 tons each year.

The captured gas will then be compressed, and used in enhanced oil recovery operations and sequestered in oilfields nearby. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said "Advancing our carbon capture and storage technology will create new jobs in America and reduce our carbon pollution output. It’s another example of our country’s innovation at work."

Of course, it isn't hard to find people to point out the flaws in "clean coal" arguments. Sometimes it's a myth, other times... well, it's a myth a lot of the time, apparently. Environmental groups and renewable energy advocates point out that even if the carbon dioxide can be captured and stored safely - technology that has yet to be rolled out on a large, commercial scale - there is plenty still dirty about mountaintop removal mining, or even about traditional mining.

Still, President Obama has repeatedly touted the idea of clean coal, and Secretary Chu is clearly on board. So for the moment, projects like the NRG Energy plant will move forward, and the myth will perpetuate.

Image via Arnold Paul on Wikimedia Commons.

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