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 Proposal – Integrated Gasification
 Combined Cycle (IGCC)

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Environmental Problem Statement


Team Members

Progress Report (PDF) (2 pp, 12 KB) September 2006

Over 50 percent of electricity in the United States is generated from coal. This percentage is unlikely to go down—the United States has 25 percent of the world’s proven coal reserves. Generating electricity from coal has significant environmental consequences; in the United States, it is the source of:

  • About two-thirds of the sulfur dioxide emissions, which contribute to air pollution problems such as fine particle pollution, acid rain, and regional haze
  • One-fifth of the nitrogen oxide emissions, which contribute to ozone pollution
  • Over one-third of the mercury air emissions
  • Potential water consumption and conservation concerns
  • Emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas (worldwide, coal combustion is the source of 37 percent of human-made carbon dioxide emissions)

Generating electricity from coal in an environmentally sustainable way is an important challenge.

Definition of the Technology Challenge

The process of integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) uses a gasifier to transform coal and other fuels to gas and then uses a combined cycle power block to generate electricity. IGCC is one of the most promising technologies to meet the challenge of generating electricity from coal in an environmentally sustainable way.

For traditional pollutants, IGCC pollutes less than traditional coal plants. It also has the potential to make carbon capture and sequestration much easier and cheaper than traditional coal plants.

IGCC also has multi-media environmental benefits:

  • It reduces the amount of water used.
  • It provides a solid waste stream that can be a useful by-product.
  • It has the potential to reduce solid waste by using as fuel a combination of coal and biomass as a fuel.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has helped fund two IGCC demonstration plants, but commercial deployment faces a number of obstacles: higher capital costs and higher technology risks relative to other generation technologies. IGCC and carbon capture and sequestration also pose a number of environmental permitting issues.

Milestones, Action, and Due Dates

No. Milestone Due Date
1 An evaluation of environmental consequences of IGCC as a means of producing electricity from coal compared to other methods of producing electricity from coal; an assessment of costs, reliability, and efficiency Completion date not to exceed 3 years from start date
2 An identification and evaluation of the options for federal and state government action to address cost barriers to initial commercial deployment of IGCC for electricity generation from coal Completion date not to exceed 3 years from start date
3 An exploration of whether options should address carbon capture-ready technology and carbon sequestration opportunities Completion date not to exceed 3 years from start date
4 An evaluation of federal environmental regulations in order to identify options for decreasing regulatory barriers to IGCC and to provide incentives for IGCC Completion date not to exceed 3 years from start date
5 Activities coordinated with the Recovering the Value of Waste for Environmental and Energy Sustainability Action Team, including joint information sessions; first meeting has been held Ongoing
Evidence of work with DOE on coal gasification issues; work group held first meeting on October 6 and identified issues for follow-up Ongoing
6 A work plan for assessment of IGCC environmental consequences October 22
7 Evidence of work with utility industry on permitting issues Ongoing

Require Resources

Contract money for environmental assessment is needed from EPA and possibly from DOE.

See Also

Department of Energy (DOE)


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