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Southern Company’s Clean Coal Project Generates First Electricity From Syngas

Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power’s clean coal project in Kemper County, MS, has generated its first electricity using syngas produced from Mississippi lignite, the utility said Wednesday.

The utility said the electricity was generated using a combination of syngas and natural gas.

The announcement comes just a few months after the experimental power plant began producing syngas using its coal gasifiers (see Daily GPI, July 20).

Calling the Kemper project “the world’s most advanced coal plant,” Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning said he’s “thrilled” to see the project generate its first electricity from syngas.

“The technology at the heart of the first-of-its-kind facility provides a way forward for energy companies in the U.S. and around the world to cleanly generate electricity using an affordable and abundant resource,” he said.

Mississippi Power CEO Anthony Wilson said the Kemper plant’s latest achievement shows “our company’s commitment to deliver on our promise that Kemper will provide Mississippi Power customers with safe, reliable energy for decades to come. Achieving this latest milestone means that we are implementing innovative 21st-century technology right here in Mississippi.”

The Atlanta-based Southern Company, through its subsidiaries, operates 44 GW of electric generating capacity and serves 9 million electric and gas customers across the Southeast. The energy giant, which acquired gas utility AGL Resources Inc. earlier this year (see Daily GPI, July 5), also owns a competitive wholesale generation company.

Southern’s Kemper project has drawn scrutiny for going over budget -- Mississippi Power had invested $6.6 billion in the facility as of May -- and faced skepticism over the viability of clean coal technology.

Meanwhile, cheap natural gas has continued to incentivize coal-to-gas switching among electric generators, leading to increased power sector demand for gas in 2016 (see Daily GPI, Sept. 2). This trend has also helped the United States lower its carbon emissions and correlated with lower residential electric bills (see Daily GPI, Oct. 7).

Developments in clean coal technology could have a major impact on the future of gas demand in a carbon-constrained world. Panelists at the North American Gas Forum in Washington, DC, earlier this month said coal-to-gas switching -- as a means for other countries to lower their carbon emissions -- represents a major growth opportunity for U.S. liquefied natural gas exports moving forward (see Daily GPI, Oct. 6).

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