Clean coal-fired power in the U.S.

ThermoEnergy Corp. and ITEA S.p.A. announced recently that they will work together to promote, finance, design and construct a 50 MW pilot plant and a 320 MW commercial facility in the United States using a clean coal technology called pressurized oxy-combustion.

The goal is to accelerate the development of coal-fired emissions-free electricity generation. These clean coal power plants could enable utilities to continue burning inexpensive and abundant coal, while virtually eliminating both the traditional pollution (such as sulfur dioxide) from coal plants and the emissions of carbon dioxide that cause climate change. Moreover, the technology can be retrofitted to existing coal plants. By converting to pressurized oxy-combustion, the power industry could avoid shutting down scores of aging coal-fired facilities now threatened by tough new EPA pollution regulations, saving thousands of jobs and billions of taxpayer dollars.

Fuel burnt in high-pressure oxygen
Typical existing coal plants burn coal in air at normal atmospheric pressure. The key advance in the patented ThermoEnergy and ITEA technology is burning the fuel in high-pressure oxygen instead of in regular air. One advantage is that the coal burns more cleanly and efficiently, producing more electricity for a given amount of fuel. Moreover, the high pressure makes it possible to condense or turn into liquid the gasses that are normally emitted through the smokestack. As a result, nearly 100 percent of conventional pollutants such as NOx, SO2, SO3 and mercury, along with carbon dioxide, can be captured and then safely disposed of, sequestered or recycled. In addition, the extracted water can be recycled, dramatically lowering water consumption.

The clean coal technology will be developed and marketed by Unity Power Alliance LLC, a joint venture between ITEA and ThermoEnergy. While experts say that pressurized oxy-combustion holds tremendous promise, it's not yet clear what the optimal pressure will be for commercial plants.