Two recent newspaper articles discuss the arguments as to whether pulverized coal or IGCC power plants are the better coal fired power plants to build, in the context of suitability to control greenhouse gas emissions.
A February 21 article in the New York Times sums up the arguments as follows:
Environmentalists are worried, but they put their faith in a technology that gasifies the coal before burning. Such plants are designed, they say, to be more adaptable to separating the carbon and storing it underground.
Most utility officials counter that the gasification approach is more expensive and less reliable, but they say there is no need to worry because their tried-and-true method, known as pulverized coal, can also be equipped later with hardware to capture the global warming gas.
The NYT reports that a study, to be released soon by MIT, indicates that it is not clear which technology will allow for the easiest carbon capture, because so much engineering work remains to be done.
Bruce H. Braine, the vice president for strategic policy analysis at American Electric Power, which plans to build two gasification plants said there is demonstrable evidence that separating carbon from gasified coal would work better than at a pulverized coal plant; “we think it’s the right thing to do to move the I.G.C.C. technology forward.
The February 16 issue of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had article that pitted off statements made by or in behalf of TXU and NRG Energy. TXU Corp.'s plans to build 11 pulverized coal-fired power plants in Texas and NRG Energy proposes to build a coal-gasification plant in South Texas.
The rival technologies presented their opposing arguments at the Cambridge Research Associates conference in Houston. Each side claimed that its technology will more efficiently protect residents from pollution.
Tim Curran, president of Alstom USA of Windsor, Conn., whose company is three to five years away from developing carbon capture technology for pulverized coal plants, said that pulverized coal is superior because America's existing power-generating fleet can retrofitted instead of building brand-new generating plants. He called the promises of coal-gasification "hype."
David Crane of NRG Energy conceded that gasification is 20% more expensive than traditional pulverized coal technology, but called other arguments against it "myths."
Crane said that gasification is more expensive because each plant is custom-built. As more gasification plants are built, he said, gasification would enjoy the same cookie-cutter design advantages and construction efficiencies that traditional pulverized-coal plants enjoy.