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Southern California Edison Assesses Advanced Coal Technologies

by Staff Writers
Rosemead CA (SPX) May 31, 2007
Edison International's electricity utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), has requested state regulatory approval to conduct the nation's first feasibility assessment of combining several advanced "clean" coal technologies, on a full commercial scale, in an effort to advance these emerging approaches to low-carbon generation.

Elements SCE Proposes Combining for the First Time:

- A chemical process that captures as much as 90 percent of the carbon in domestic coal, the highest level targeted by a U.S. clean coal initiative

- Producing a mostly hydrogen fuel and emitting only 10 percent of the carbon released by an integrated gasification(1) combined-cycle coal project without carbon capture

- Burning the hydrogen in a highly efficient, combined-cycle generating system

- Sequestering the carbon in a depleted oil formation to create enhanced oil recovery or in a deep saline formation

- The use of these technologies in a full-scale, 600-megawatt (MW) commercial generating facility.

The advanced technologies in SCE's proposed study, an approach the utility calls Clean Hydrogen Power Generation (CHPG), are being considered or tested in clean coal projects elsewhere. The SCE plan would be the first assessment of a full-scale, 600-MW facility using all of them. It is an effort to advance the technology of low-emission power generation using coal, the nation's most secure, readily available, domestic fuel source.

"Edison believes that if California and the nation are to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants while increasing power supplies using domestic fuels, companies like ours must take the lead exploring the feasibility of these advanced technologies," said Edison International Chairman John Bryson. "For a century, our company has supported the commercial development of promising new technologies."

SCE is seeking authorization to commit $52 million of revenues it collects from customer rates during a two-year period to an advanced technology feasibility study. If approved, this would represent less than a quarter of one percent of current customer rates.

"This proposal is part of a larger strategy we advocate for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions - increased purchases of renewable energy, increased support for energy efficiency, switching to cleaner transportation fuels, and investment in emerging clean generation technologies," said Bryson.

How the CHPG Process Would Work

1. Coal and water enter a "gasifier" where the coal is converted to fuel gasses.

2. The gasses undergo additional processing to remove sulfur, mercury, and carbon dioxide resulting in very low-emission hydrogen fuel.

3. Carbon dioxide extracted during the process is sequestered in secure underground geologic formations.

4. The hydrogen is piped to gas turbines where electricity is generated.

5. Exhaust heat from the gas turbines is used to create steam and drive additional turbines, resulting in maximum power-generation efficiency.

SCE's proposal rests on the Edison International tradition of investing in new technology development. According to a Department of Energy report on very early experiments with clean coal technologies, "The first major use of coal gasification to generate electric power in the United States took place in the mid-1980s at Southern California Edison's experimental Cool Water demonstration plant near Barstow, California. The 110-megawatt Cool Water plant established the early technical foundation for future Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plants."(2)


- There are between 25 and 30 U.S. low-carbon power projects in some stage of study or development. SCE's study is the first to look at combining a full commercial scale generation project, the use of domestic coal and low-emission hydrogen to generate electricity, and the capture and sequestration of most of the carbon produced by the process.

- SCE and its customers are the nation's leaders in reducing GHG through energy efficiency. Customer response to SCE's energy-efficiency programs during the past five years has saved 4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), enough to power 500,000 homes for an entire year, reducing GHG emissions by more than 2 million tons, the equivalent of removing 250,000 cars from the road.

- SCE also is the nation's leading purchaser of renewable energy, buying and delivering approximately 13 billion kWh in 2006 from wind, solar, biomass, biogas, geothermal, and small hydro suppliers - 16.7% of the power it delivered to customers. An equivalent amount of generation using fossil fuels would produce 7 million tons of GHG emissions. SCE purchases one-sixth of all U.S. renewable energy used to generate electricity for retail sale, including more than 90% of all the U.S. solar generation, enough renewable energy to power 154,000 homes.

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