Mississippi Power’s experimental clean coal power project in Kemper County, MS, reached “the most significant milestone at the plant to date” when it began producing syngas from locally mined lignite, the company said Friday.

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, said producing syngas using the plant’s coal gasifiers marks “an important step in the systematic process of achieving the facility’s commercial operation.”

“This is a major achievement for the Kemper project, and I am very proud of everyone who has worked safely and tirelessly to overcome challenges and reach this important point,” Mississippi Power CEO Anthony Wilson said. “Producing syngas from Mississippi’s own abundant natural resource — lignite — should be encouraging to our customers, communities and energy companies around the world. This proves that Kemper’s technology can provide a way forward for coal and puts us a step closer to full plant operation.”

The recent outlook for coal has been negative, as cheap gas, combined with environmental regulations, has driven down its share of the power stack (see Daily GPI, April 5).

The next step will be for the plant to use the syngas to power a combustion turbine. The 582 MW Kemper County facility is designed to run more cleanly than a comparable natural gas-fired plant by capturing at least 65% of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The CO2 could then be used for enhanced oil recovery, the utility said.

As of May, Mississippi Power had invested $6.6 billion in the clean coal project, more than the $4.1 billion approved for recovery from ratepayers and well above the original $2.88 billion budget (see Daily GPI, Aug. 15, 2014).