Dongguan is betting that its IGCC plant will become a standard for China as the country cracks down on emissions, and it has already laid plans for an 800-megawatt plant. Both projects await approval by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which controls the financial incentives needed to cover the higher cost of an IGCC plant - about double the price of a pulverized-coal plant. The agency has approved only one of about a dozen IGCC projects proposed to date - the 250-megawatt GreenGen project under construction in Tianjin.
IGCCs could take off faster in the U.S. thanks to a carbon cap-and-trade system under consideration by Congress. That is, if it passes and can push carbon prices high enough. Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power Company has hit a wall of protest with a proposal to build a 582-megawatt IGCC plant in Kemper County, MS, in advance of that price signal. Mississippi Power’s plant would capture 65 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions, giving the lignite-fired plant a carbon footprint comparable to that of natural gas. That promise earned the $2.2 billion project $403 million in federal grants and tax breaks.
Thompson, at the Clean Air Task Force, argues that both the Dongguan and the Kemper projects must go forward because they provide a means of controlling carbon emissions from coal. He says environmentalists should recognize that coal use worldwide is not going away anytime soon, making carbon capture critical to achieving the very large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required in the decades to come to minimize the ecological impacts of global climate change.
“If new technologies to tame the CO2 emissions from coal aren’t widely deployed soon, everything the environmental movement has sought to achieve over the last century goes out the window,” says Thompson. “If CCS isn’t widely deployed, it’s game over.”