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 Post subject: Forefront of clean-coal technology could be Schuylkill Count
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:25 am 
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Forefront of clean-coal technology could be Schuylkill County

BY BEN WOLFGANG
POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN & HERALD
February 6, 2011

Schuylkill County's history is linked to anthracite coal.

Its future may include the cleanest coal-fueled power plant in the world.

EmberClear, a Canada-based company, is planning to build an $800 million-plus power plant in the village of Good Spring in Porter Township.

Using cutting-edge technology and an abundant supply of anthracite, company CEO Albert Lin believes the massive project could break ground before the end of the year, creating more than 1,000 temporary and 100 permanent jobs.

"The role of coal in the global scheme of things is still heavily misunderstood. The reality is, coal is more popular ... worldwide than any other major fuel source. Wind has grown 100 percent per year for the past six years. But last year it produced less than one-fifth of the energy that new coal plants brought onto the (electricity) grid around the world," Lin told The Republican-Herald on Friday. "The use of coal is continuing on. The investments into these plants ... virtually assure it. Our conclusion is the logical one: If you are really concerned about the environment, you must address coal. You cannot just wish it away."

Other countries, specifically China, continue to invest in clean coal technology, Lin said. While his company also plans to invest in other energy sources like wind power, he said the energy future of the United States is tied to coal. Accepting that fact and trying to reduce carbon emissions to the lowest possible level, he added, is crucial.

Experts believe the proposed technology at EmberClear's planned plant - dubbed the Good Spring Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or Good Spring IGCC - represents the future.

"This is certainly one of the ways forward for cleaner coal with higher efficiencies and definite ways of moving forward to replace some of the 30-year-old coal plants we have that are really showing their age," said Jonathan Matthews, an assistant professor of energy and mineral engineering at Penn State University. "I would say that there is some room for competing technology, (but) IGCC is probably the frontrunner in many peoples' minds."

Formerly known as Future Fuels, EmberClear, a publicly-traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange which is involved with projects across the globe, has been planning the Schuylkill County project for about three years, according to Lin.

It recently acquired all necessary permits for the project, he said.

The company has also been lauded by President Obama for pursuing clean coal technology.

Earlier this year, EmberClear purchased more coal-rich land in and around Good Spring, adding 50 percent to its 55-million tons in the ground.

The quality of Schuylkill County's anthracite coal, Lin said, is one of the reasons the company hopes to build here.

"The quality of local coal will definitely help. If we were to do the same kind of plant (with a different coal) ... you have much higher levels of ash and sulfur. But this plant is going to end up being incredibly clean," he said.

There are other reasons the company picked Good Spring: its proximity to rail and its closeness to the PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland) power grid.

The project will generate electricity and sell it directly to the grid.

The technology, Lin said, will reduce CO2 emissions to never-before-seen lows.

"Instead of burning coal, lighting it on fire .. you put it in, basically, an oven," he said. "You put it under intense pressure. You're starving it of oxygen so it would not actually burn. By putting it in this closed canister, the coal basically dissolves. You then reassemble the little elements that made up the coal and you turn it into other fuels. You're going to convert the coal through a chemical reaction ... it lets you trap all of the impurities, you can trap all of the impurities, you can take out the sulfur dioxide. The output at Good Spring - we're going to put the coal in the oven and what's going to come out is a synthetic natural gas. It will create far less CO2."

The gas will then be put into a standard turbine to generate electricity, Lin added.

The technology burns less coal, gets more energy and creates less waste, according to Matthews.

"You don't allow complete oxidation. It's because you control that process that you get to work with gases which are much easier to control and much easier to clean up," he said.

The project would also put people to work.

"To build a plant of this size, you will need at least 1,000 people ... for several years just to build the plant," Lin said.

After construction is complete, Lin said it will provide at least 100 full-time jobs.

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