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Bosses at world’s most ambitious CCS plant kept problems secret for years

March 2, 2018

By Paul Homewood



Bad news for CCS proponents.

From the Guardian:



Executives at the world’s most ambitious “clean coal” plant knew for years about serious design flaws and budget problems but sought to withhold key information from regulators before their plans collapsed, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

The Kemper plant in Mississippi – held up as the global model for a new generation of “clean coal” power plants – was the most expensive fossil fuel power plant in US history, with a $7.5bn price tag. Its owners, Southern Company, boasted it was “going to be the cleanest coal plant in the world”, in the words of the CEO, Tom Fanning.

But thousands of internal documents reviewed by the Guardian and a series of interviews with Kemper staff uncovered evidence that the company had information showing that the project would blow through state-imposed budget limits five years before the company decided to reverse course and become an exclusively gas-fired energy plant.

Kemper’s failure could be a serious setback for global climate policy and plans to reach the Paris climate targets. International climate agreements rely heavily on developing practical carbon capture technologies that have so far largely proved elusive. Kemper was slated to be the largest coal carbon capture plant ever built, touted as potentially the first of many similar projects worldwide.

The documents show that Kemper’s design faced what proved to be an insurmountable issue: it required vastly more maintenance downtime than originally predicted, and according to one 2014 report would be offline 45% of its first five years rather than the 25% the company had publicly projected.

Those figures doomed Kemper’s “clean coal” plans by raising its lifetime costs dramatically. The company had this information three years before it told regulators it was reversing course and planned to run the plant on natural gas.

Southern nonetheless pushed forward, sinking nearly $3bn more into construction.

Experts have long warned that the biggest challenge for clean coal power is affordability – adding so-called carbon capture technology, which captures carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels, requires expensive equipment and saps energy that could otherwise be sold to power customers.


Of course, when the Guardian talks about “Clean Coal”, it means no CO2. The same old real pollutants emitted by coal in conventional plants are still emitted by CCS plants.

It would appear that viable, large scale CCS technology is still a mirage.

  1. March 2, 2018 12:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  2. Robert Fairless permalink
    March 2, 2018 1:05 pm

    Dishonesty and lack of integrity is not limited to politicians but is spread wide into all professions and disciplines. Unfortunately it usually comes with a large price tag the cost mostly met by the poorest. Such is the flawed world we live in. In Britain, a close examination of the energy industry will reveal there is no shortage of evidence to prove the point. Thus, energy is overpriced and the Industry is inefficient and on the verge of bankruptcy but the bureaucrats in charge prosper and become rich.

    • dennisambler permalink
      March 2, 2018 1:45 pm

      They have clearly had a major impact…

      “…on one of the most active days, the IRA tweeted about energy issues 81 times total, compared to a total volume of 173,349 energy-related tweets and retweets overall on that day, or approximately five one-hundredths of 1 percent (0.046 percent) of the total conversation.”

    • Sheri permalink
      March 2, 2018 1:53 pm

      I’d be upset, but the progressives are using social media to try and get gun control passed. Not sure I don’t prefer Russia—sometimes they are more rational and straightforward.

      I have a hard time caring about this. People locked their eyes on a cell phone, gave cell phones to their kids and shut off their brains. It’s apparently what they wanted. There always was an appeal to “soma”, in whatever form. Brave New World.

      • March 2, 2018 2:51 pm

        Gun control was used by both the Soviets and the Nazis, not to mention countless other authoritarians, to subjugate people in to virtual slavery. The gun control advocates here are no different.

    • TinyCO2 permalink
      March 2, 2018 1:58 pm

      Don’t tell me that the Guardian might be labelled a den of deniers and merchants of fake news?

      • John Palmer permalink
        March 2, 2018 2:06 pm

        The latter, most certainly!

  3. March 2, 2018 1:16 pm

    So CCS is hugely expensive, inefficient and unreliable. Just like wind and solar power.

    • Sheri permalink
      March 2, 2018 1:54 pm

      However, it’s a great way to get government money to your state and relatives. Tried and true.

    • John Palmer permalink
      March 2, 2018 2:03 pm

      Well… hideously costly green flagship plans don’t work – who’d a thunk it!

  4. dennisambler permalink
    March 2, 2018 1:42 pm

    “It would appear that viable, large scale CCS technology is still a mirage.”

    And totally unnecessary, yet the UK government is pursuing it:

    • AZ1971 permalink
      March 2, 2018 5:26 pm

      Any CCS technology is going to be a mirage. It’s simply not possible to capture and store carbon dioxide in any meaningful capacity without all sorts of chemical, environmental, and safety risks associated with it.

  5. March 2, 2018 1:48 pm

    The Allam Cycle (named after British inventor Rodney Allam, but being developed by US and Japanese companies) may turn out to be viable:

    The US Department of Energy is also funding it:

  6. tom0mason permalink
    March 2, 2018 1:54 pm

    ‘Clean coal’ with CCS, as practical as teaching unicorns to walk upright.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      March 2, 2018 9:49 pm

      Whenever I’ve seen a unicorn, the unicorn was upright — compared to me.

  7. Mike Jackson permalink
    March 2, 2018 1:57 pm

    Can we please stop pretending that reducing CO2 output has any bearing at all on the future state of the earth’s climate?

    Or that the various climate gabfests or the IPCC’s meaningless five-yearly output of pseudo-scientific nonsense is anything other than a gravy train for environmental activists with an anti-human axe to grind.

    If we have learnt nothing else from this winter’s weather we should have cottoned on (again!) to the idea that nature will carry on alternately being benign or malign without any sentient input on her part and with only minimal reference to what mankind does.

    Anybody of my age (and admittedly we become rarer each passing year) remembers 1947 and 1953 and 1963 and 1975/6 and 1981. And the beast from the east, for all it sent temperatures here down to -12° on Monday night, has not yet managed to match February 2012 when we had equally low minima and *nothing* above freezing for virtually three weeks.

    It’s only weather and impoverishing ourselves and our children in order not to solve a non-problem that would be beyond our ability to deal with anyway is not an idea that gets any more sensible as the years pass.

    Does the Guardian believe what it prints? If it isn’t the Moonbat in a blind panic because the Arctic has had a warm spasm it’s the environment staff wringing their hands at the discovery that CCS doesn’t work (welcome to the real world) and that somebody sucking on the (American) government teat didn’t bother to ‘fess up (ditto)!

    I’m going to take a pill and lie down! Maybe the world will have improved by teatime!

    • dennisambler permalink
      March 2, 2018 3:19 pm

      Agree entirely Mike. We should not use their language or give any credence to the idea that reducing CO2 will control the climate. Climate history demonstrates nothing “unprecedented” about current weather events, we have been through a very benign period and should be grateful. Meanwhile the timetable for doom has been pushed on again, giving them a rationale for a further 20 years of funding:

      “The world will need sweeping changes over the next 20 years ranging from energy use to food production to achieve climate goals set by almost 200 nations, the new heads of a top environmental think-tank said on Friday.”

      This is Potsdam, where chief doomsayer Schellnhuber is to retire in October. He is to be replaced by two UN activists:

      Hans-Joachim (John) Schellnhuber is to retire from his role as Director of the Potsdam Institute in October, the Institute that he founded in 1992. There are to be two Co-Directors, (both of them long-time generals in the CAGW army.)
      “bringing together natural sciences and social sciences stronger than ever”

  8. March 2, 2018 1:57 pm

    I’m very surprised that the Grauniad has the time, the money and the expertise to review “thousands of internal documents” about something which is highly technical.

    • John F. Hultquist permalink
      March 2, 2018 9:52 pm

      Agree. That sounds odd. Guess: Someone sent them a summary of the work compiled by the Company.

    • brian jones permalink
      March 3, 2018 7:47 pm

      grauniad?!?? Help please…..

  9. March 2, 2018 2:24 pm

    Yep, when we talk about “Clean Coal power”, we mean operation set up with maximum emission filters cleaner than burning wood per MWh of energy generated.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      March 2, 2018 2:30 pm

      But still a cost, and nowadays a cost on the bills. Stupidity on viagra.

  10. dennisambler permalink
    March 2, 2018 3:03 pm

    Paul’s 2016 post is very pertinent.

  11. Jack Broughton permalink
    March 2, 2018 3:11 pm

    Saw the Torygraph editorial today asking what will happen when we have no coal fired power stations in bad weather. Looks as though they have found out that the UK is at the mercy of world natural gas supplies and prices at last. Will they get their pals to stop the scrapping of the remaining UK coal fired power stations though?

    They have also noticed that the closure of the Rough gas store was a business matter with no consideration given to their security duty of care.

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      March 3, 2018 9:20 am

      10.41GW of our 39.2GW demand at the present.

  12. Roger Graves permalink
    March 2, 2018 6:12 pm

    You do realise, I hope, that one of the greatest sources of the evil CO2 is the human race. Your every breathe contains about 40,000 ppm of CO2. This is obviously unacceptable, and plans are underway to issue everyone with a personal CCS unit which you will be required to wear at all times. Current units weigh approx. 40 lbs, and citizens unable to sustain the weight will be required to use communal motorised units into which they will be permanently strapped. Each unit will contain a GPS locator and ID unit so your local friendly government will know where you are at all times.

    Welcome to the brave new, green world!

    • Broadlands permalink
      March 3, 2018 1:51 pm

      And the correlation with food is very strong. Everyone who has eaten it has died. We must capture and store it…if there is any room after storing billions of tons of CO2.

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