Mississippi: The World’s Largest Carbon Capture Plant is Built Here

This article is a translation of a piece written by Kristoffer Rønneberg in leading Norwegian paper Aftenposten

English Translation of article by Kristoffer Rønneberg in the leading Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and last updated August 17, 2015:

In Mississippi a coal power plant is about to succeed where the facility at Mongstad had to bite the dust.

“We hope we can get Norway on our team when we develop this technology,” says Vice President of Southern Company, Karl R. Moor.

Moor, equipped with helmet, safety boots, and a vest, is gazing proudly over the landscape. We are standing on the highest point in Mississippi — a small platform on the top of the enormous Kemper facility.

“It has been expensive, but we are still optimistic. This is how it is to be in the front of development. You have to take both the benefits and drawbacks. And there have been some drawbacks. But we haven’t given up,” says Moor.

It’s not hard to understand what he means. The Kemper power plant has cost $6 billion. The first price was set to be around $2.2 billion.

But the company has continued the work with the new power plant, convinced the technology they develop here will be beneficial in the future.


Selling The Waste

Karl R. Moor, Vice President of the energy company Southern Company, hoping to get Norway as a partner when carbon capture projects are built in the future. PHOTO: Kristoffer Rønneberg

Moor and his colleagues are in fact building the largest plant for carbon capture in Mississippi. When it becomes fully operational next year it will be able to capture 65% of its carbon dioxide emissions. That will be about three billion tons of CO2 annually.

“We are selling the carbon dioxide to a company who produces petroleum in the south of Mississippi. At the same time, we are selling sulfur and ammonia that is used in several industries. So in total, we estimate an income of $100 million a year on the waste materials from here,” says Lee Youngblood, Director of Communications at the Kemper facility.

The Kemper Coal Power Plant uses lignite from a mine just next to the power station. The quality of lignite is very low, which has made it less attractive to use in coal power plants in previous years. However, the Kemper facility uses a process in which the coal is first heated and then converted to gas for electricity.


Bellona is Impressed

Communications Manager Lee Youngblood (left) and Deputy Director Bruce Harrington at the Kemper facility believe the project is worth the 6.7 billion dollars. “We have learned a lot. Next time we can make it less expensive,” says Youngblood. PHOTO: Kristoffer Rønneberg

When the carbon dioxide, sulfur and ammonia are sold, there is very little pollutant left. Even the ash that is left can be used to make roads in other coalmines.

“We are sending it back from where it came,” chuckles Bruce Harrington, Assistant Factory Manager.

Despite all of Kemper’s speed bumps, the Norwegian environmental organization, Bellona, praises the Kemper facility for their development.

Bellona CO2 capture advisor, Sirin Engen, recently visited the Kemper facility. She believes President Obama’s environmental measures are an important reason why companies like Southern Company (that is building Kemper) are addressing environmental issues in innovative ways.

The new rules set high requirements on emissions and the requirements could be even higher. The United States gives, at the same time, help to “early movers”, she says.


Divestment?

Vice President Moor hopes that the Norwegian government will contribute as a partner in developing the technology that is now used at Kemper.

“It is very important for us to have Norway on the team since they are such a significant energy producer and are so engaged in climate technology,” he says.

Norway’s Oil and Energy Minister, Tord Lien, visited the Kemper facility in 2013, which he called “very exciting” and “a large and important project.” Nevertheless, he wants to only open the door slightly to the idea of collaboration.

“The conditions are favorable for relevant knowledge to find its way to Norway from Kemper,” he says.

Moor initially hopes the handling of CO2 at Kemper will prevent the company from divestment by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund. Norway had, at the end of 2014, shares at a value of $1.8 million in the company.

“We produce clean energy here. We hope the Norwegian authorities understand that,” he says.

Johan H. Andresen, leader for the fund’s Council of Ethics, says it is too early to decide on Southern divestment.

“I cannot answer today about the emissions and “coal criterion” since the Kemper Power Plant is not fully operational yet. All criteria are forward-looking and these two criteria must be taken into consideration. A certain proportion of coal is a part of something. Carbon capture can also be this “something”,” says Andresen.


The Kemper Plant Facts

-Started in 2010 by Mississippi Power (a subsidiary of Southern Company).

-Will be the world’s largest carbon capture (CCS) facility when it opens in 2016.

-Cost: $6 billion. The company thought originally the cost would be $2.2 billion.

-Uses lignite, also known as brown coal, as an energy source.

-The power plant will generate up to 730 megawatts and become a significant energy supplier in Mississippi.

-At least 65 percent of the carbon dioxide from the facility will be captured and sold to oil companies.

-Around 3 million tons of CO2 will be captured and sold annually from the Kemper facility.


About Carbon Capture and Storage

-Technology that removes greenhouse gas CO2 from power plants and large industrial facilities. Relevant for both gas and coal power plants.

-Before it is shipped to a storage location CO2 is separated from other gases. Usually the greenhouse gas is pumped into deep cavities in mountains or at great water depths.


About Mongstad

A full-scale treatment facility for CO2 emissions from the oil refinery and thermal power facility at Mongstad in Nordhordland, was launched as the Norwegian government’s “moon landing” of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Ap) at the New Year speech in 2007.

The Sotltenberg-government gave up the project in September 2013.