By JACK WEATHERLY
Mississippi Power has started producing synthetic gas using lignite at the Kemper County energy facility, the long-overdue and cost-overrun plagued project.
“This is a major achievement for the Kemper project, and I am very proud of everyone who has worked safely and tirelessly to overcome challenges and reach this important point,” Mississippi Power President and Chief Executive Anthony Wilson said Friday in a news release.
“This proves that Kemper’s technology can provide a way forward for coal and puts us a step closer to full plant operation,” Wilson said.
Syngas is created when lignite is heated at high temperatures in the plant’s gasifiers, converting the coal to gas to power a turbine.
A deposit of lignite is near the power plant. National Coal Co. owns and mines the deposit.
Mississippi Power said recently that it expected commercial production of power using “syngas” to begin by Sept. 30.
The plant has been operating on natural gas since August 2014 to power the turbine.
It is more than two and one-half years behind schedule and its current cost of construction at $6.8 billion, nearly three times the original projected cost.
The “clean-coal” facility is designed to capture at least 65 percent of carbon dioxide, with resulting emissions better than a similarly sized natural gas plant, according to the release.
The captured carbon dioxide will be used for enhanced oil recovery – a process through which it is injected into the ground to extract the fuel from otherwise depleted oil fields.
The company was sued recently by an affiliate of a company that had planned to buy about one-third of the CO2.
Mississippi Power terminated on June 3 its contract with Treetop Midstream Services, a subsidiary of Ridgeland-based Tellus Operating Group LLC. Treetop sued Mississippi Power on June 9, contending that it was misled on the time schedule for completion of the plant and as a result built a $100 million pipeline.
Mississippi Power had also signed a CO2 contract with Plano, Texas-based Denbury Resources, which agreed to buy the majority of it.
Mississippi Power built a 61-mile CO2 pipeline for Denbury, which says on its website that “we continue to anticipate completion and startup of Mississippi Power’s Kemper County Energy Facility for which we have contracted, which could more than double the amount of CO2 we currently utilize from industrial sources.”
Denbury has reportedly agreed to buy all of the carbon dioxide produced by the plant, though an effort to contact the company on Friday was unsuccessful.
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