Contract awarded for Trimble County coal plant
Mitsui Babcock Energy Ltd. has won a $100 million contract to build a clean-coal power plant in Kentucky.
The West Sussex, England-based company, which has its American headquarters in Atlanta, is partnering with the No. 1 power-plant builder the United States, Bechtel Group, to build the $1-billion-plus facility, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, a sister newspaper of Business First.
The work is being done from Atlanta and should be complete by 2010, said Steve Whyley, worldwide sales and marketing director for Mitsui, a provider of services and technologies for the energy industry.
The plant, which will be located in Trimble County, will be designed as one of the cleanest and most efficient power plants in the world, producing fewer harmful emissions and burning coal hotter and longer than other clean-coal and traditional-coal power plants.
By burning coal more efficiently, plants use less, potentially reducing costs for both the plant and the end user — consumers.
Clean coal in demand
The project, contracted by Louisville Gas & Electric Co. and Kentucky Utilities Co., comes at a time when natural gas prices are skyrocketing, leaving coal as an even more attractive energy source.
Although the cost of coal has risen over the past five years, said Ari Geertsema, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, that cost increase is considerably smaller than the explosive price of gas.
Currently, coal accounts for 52 percent of the energy sources used in the United States.
In addition, many energy companies during the past few years have found their 1970s-era coal plants reaching full capacity. While utilities during the 1980s and ’90s weren’t building many coal plants, they are now finding the need, Geertsema said.
“They’ve reached a ceiling with how much they can squeeze out from their existing power plants,” he said.
Plus, energy demand is increasing substantially in the United States as well as abroad. The International Energy Agency, a global energy policy adviser, predicts energy use worldwide will grow 60 percent by 2030, with almost 90 percent of that growth coming from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal.
Although clean-coal plants are more expensive to build than traditional power plants, the operating costs are cheaper, Whyley and Geertsema say. In addition, utilities could save money because they often are charged by various governments for their emissions.
“It’s the old payoff of paying more but getting more,” Geertsema said.
Mitsui Babcock’s new plant will be cleaner than traditional plants, because the company is providing boilers that burn coal under what is known as “supercritical” conditions, emitting fewer exhaust gasses such as nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide.