Coal gasification plant considered first of its kind for clean coal technology ,,, to be located near Taylorville, southeast of Springfield.

Breakout/layer at top of story. Graphic available. Contact Rich Saal, SJ-R, 788-1475.

How it works

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology uses intense heat and pressure, pure oxygen and water to convert coal to synthetic gas. Pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other particulates are broken down and removed before the gas is burned.

The synthetic gas is used to power turbine generators. Excess heat produced by the process is converted to steam to power a second generator.





GateHouse News Service




TAYLORVILLE, ILL.  — A proposed $2 billion clean-coal technology project proposed near this central Illinois community of 12,000 promises hundreds of jobs, enough electricity to power 630,000 homes and a boost to the sagging fortunes of Midwest coal.

There’s just a little matter of Illinois politics.

Developers of the “integrated gasification combined cycle technology (IGCC) also claim the Taylorville Energy Center would represent the largest such project of its kind in the world for cleanly burning high-sulfur coal.

“It’s a new technology to the entire world, as far as its size. It would be the first, and most advance, of its kind,” said Bill Braudt Jr., general manager of business development for Tenaska Inc., a Nebraska-based investment company that specializes in power-plant projects.

According to the company Web site, Tenaska had $8.7 billion in revenues last year, and operated or managed 11 power plants worldwide. The company has a 50 percent stake in the Taylorville project.

Braudt pointed out, even as demand for electricity continues to rise, a “base load” power plant has not been built in Illinois in more than two decades. Utilities have instead resorted to natural-gas fired generators to handle peak demand, such as during the summer cooling season.

With soaring prices for both natural gas and oil, such plants have become increasingly expensive to operate, costs that often wind up in monthly utility bills, according to Braudt.

“At some point, we have to built more base-load plants, and coal prices are not nearly as volatile as natural gas prices,” he said.

Supporters of the Taylorville Energy Center are backing legislation in the Illinois General Assembly that would require the state’s two largest utilities, Ameren and ComEd, to sign power-purchasing contracts of up to 40 years for electricity produced by “integrated gasification combined cycle” plants like that planned for Taylorville.

The bill would limit power supplies purchased from IGCC plants to 5 percent of peak demand and would exempt the utilities from current rules that limit power-purchasing contracts to three years.

The president of the Illinois Coal Association said the clean-burning technology planned in Taylorville promises not only more jobs and coal production, but it should help slow electric rates in the long run by putting more power on the market.

But he too said investors are not likely to put up money without the assurance of long-term contracts for power produced by the plant.

“No one is going to loan them money if you don’t show a revenue stream of at least 20 years,” said Phil Gonet. He added that he is concerned the legislation, awaiting action in the Illinois House, could get lost in the general furor over higher electric rates this year

Illinois coal production and employment have steadily declined since peaking in 1990 at 66 million tons and 10,000 jobs, primarily as a result of power generators switching to low-sulfur, western coal and natural gas to comply with federal clean-air rules.

State coal production last year totaled 33 million tons and industry employment is now about 3,500.

Jobs and the long-term promise of cheaper power certainly are among the reasons the project has the support of Taylorville Mayor Frank Mathon. A Northern Illinois University study that estimates the power plant would create 663 direct and support jobs locally, 1,500 construction jobs and would burn 1.5 million tons of Illinois coal.

But Mathon said he also sees the plant has a way to keep young people at home in an area that often has limited job opportunities.

“Taylorville has a long history in the coal industry, and other communities may not be as opened armed,” he said.

While coal gasification has been around for years, Braudt said completion of the Taylorville plant of its kind would encourage similar projects in other regions.

“We need to prove to people all over the world that this technology works, so we can start building more of them,” he said.