Consol Energy Inc. is designing a power plant that can turn wet waste coal from the company’s mining operation into a storage carbon dioxide hub in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Consol expects the project to become operative in 2027, starting construction in 2024.
The company disclosed some details of the project in an early design study conducted with the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy. Consol will have federal grants to develop the project; in fact, the proposed plant is one of the four projects that will split an estimated $80 million in federal funding.
The proposed 300-megawatt (MW) plant will be built next to Consol’s Pennsylvania Mining Complex using pressurized fluidized bed combustion. This technology can be used through a wide range of fuels, including the expected 3 million tons of wet waste coal.
In that regard, the utility sends its wet waste coal, result from its mined coal and central preparation plant in Greene County to disposal ponds each year. For Consol Energy, reusing coal waste helps them achieve environmental goals according to the energy transition.
The company also expects the proposed plant to run partially on wet biomass, such as chopped-up grassed and trees. Therefore, Consol will enhance agricultural operations on neighboring lands.
Through the plant, the utility intends to remove about 97% of the CO2 from its smokestack, compress it and pipe it to wells, for these to inject the gas deep underground for permanent storage. Consol expects the plant to capture 2.4 million tons of CO2 annually.
Given the plant’s environmental attributes — carbon capture, biomass fuel, carbon storage, and reuse of waste –, the company would receive substantial federal funding, according to industry experts consulted by the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
Consol to solve energy transition challenges
However, the plant’s price tag is estimated at $2 billion. Therefore, the company acknowledges federal funding may not be enough to bring the project into a reality. Capital costs would probably represent the greatest commercial challenge.
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Another cause of concern for the company is the increasing trend towards coal-offset. Currently, the utility feeds domestic power plants through its coal output. Since several U.S. coal-fired power plants are retiring, Consol fears its developments not to be considered by its customers.
Nevertheless, the utility has strong incentives to develop new ideas to preserve its product on circulation. The world is moving to meet carbon-neutral statuses to address several climate change challenges; therefore, coal companies like Consol will need to propose alternative solutions to survive and be sustainable.