House Hearing on Clean Coal Programs

Just watched the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight hearing on the Dept. of Energy’s clean coal programs. As far as hearings go, it was a pretty fact-based exchange, and I applaud witness Julio Friedmann, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal at the DOE, for sticking to the facts regardless of which Congress member was questioning him, and also most of the Congress members as well for their level-headed and reasonable questions.

Many points were made at the hearing, but a few basic ones:

  • The DOE/National Energy Tecnology Laboratory’s clean coal projects fall into 3 buckets: first generation, second generation, and transformational.
  • All current projects are first generation. With first generation plants, wholesale electricity prices are expected to rise within a range of 60-80%, depending on the plant, location, type of coal used, etc.
  • Second generation plants are expected to halve that cost. Second generation plants are targeted to be demonstrated in 2022-2025, with commercial deployment beginning in 2025.
  • Transformational technologies will lower that cost further and are targeted to be ready for demonstration in the 2030–2035 timeframe.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration has been demonstrated commercially for 30 years, namely in synthetic natural gas production (this was before the natgas boom).
  • CCS technologies are available for purchase right now. They are expensive, but costs will go down the more they are deployed, as engineers learn from their operation and find ways to improve them.
  • Clean coal plants will never be as cheap as traditional coal plants.
  • These cost estimates do not take into account possible carbon costs in the future.
  • The three general categories for CO2 capture for coal plants are pre-combustion, post-combustion, and oxy-combustion.
  • Right now the DOE/NETL is trying out a variety of CCS technologies on coal plants as they are equally competitive.

Friedmann’s opening testimony: http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Testimony-Friedmann-OI-DOE-Oversight-Clean-Coal-2014-2-11.pdf

Major CCS demonstation projects:  http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/One-Pager-CCS-Projects-DOE-2014-2-11.pdf

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