President Bush’s $2 billion clean coal initiative underway

The US government is offering $330 million in federal matching funds for industry-proposed projects that demonstrate or accelerate the commercial deployment of any ‘clean coal’ technology.

The initial competitive stage of President Bush’s $2 billion, 10-year clean coal technology initiative has begun today with the US Department of Energy’s release of a solicitation offering $330 million in federal matching funds for industry-proposed projects.

‘This solicitation signals our willingness to begin a new partnership with the private sector to enhance our energy supply,’ Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. ‘Technologies like this will help us preserve our environment while we strengthen America’s energy security.’

Clean coal technologies are said to represent a new class of pollution control and power generating processes that reduce air emissions and, in many cases, lower greenhouse gases to a fraction of the levels of older, conventional coal-burning plants.

According to the US Department of Energy, some clean coal technologies offer the potential for giving even high-sulphur ‘dirty’ coals many of the same environmental qualities of natural gas. Others are also said to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by boosting power plant efficiencies and releasing carbon gases in a form that can be more easily captured and prevented from entering the atmosphere.

‘America cannot afford to turn its back on the 250-year supply of secure, low-cost energy represented by the massive coal reserves that lie within our national borders,’ said Abraham. ‘Yet, it has been nearly a decade since the federal government joined with the private sector to move promising new concepts to the point where industry can decide if they merit commercial deployment. Today’s solicitation tells industry we are ready to help share the costs and risks of new technologies that have emerged in the last 10 years but without our support, would likely remain in the laboratory.’

Industry has until August 1, 2002, to submit proposals, and winning projects will be selected by late December.

The US Energy Department is asking for projects that demonstrate or accelerate the commercial deployment of any technology advancement, which ‘results in efficiency, environmental and economic improvement compared to currently available state-of-the-art alternatives.’

Among the technologies expected to be proposed are concepts for reducing mercury, smog-causing nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and small particulate matter from existing and future power plants. New technologies that improve power plant control systems and permit plants to run more efficiently and reliably could also be proposed.

Technologies that permit better management and control of carbon emissions are being strongly encouraged. Roughly one third of the United States’ carbon emissions come from power plants, and recently, as part of his National Climate Change Policy, President Bush placed a high priority on encouraging new technologies that can reduce these emissions while, at the same time, keeping energy costs affordable.

The competition is also open to new combustion or other technologies that produce combinations of heat, fuels, chemicals or other useful by-products in conjunction with power generation. The Department will also accept projects that mix coal with other fuels, with only the provision that coal must represent at least 75 percent of the fuel energy input. The Department is also looking for advanced concepts for converting coal into a combustible gas that can be cleaned to extreme levels of purity.

Prospective projects must also show the potential to move rapidly into the market following the successful demonstration.

For each project selected by the Energy Department, industrial sponsors must be willing to at least match the federal funding share. There will also be a requirement that royalties from commercially successful technologies be used to underwrite future clean coal research.