Ohio Counties Vie for Low-Emission Power Plant Project

Sat January 15, 2005 - Midwest Edition

CINCINNATI (AP) Eight Ohio counties have the right geology and infrastructure to support the world’s first non-polluting, coal-burning power plant, according to a task force of state agencies.

At least 20 states are expected to compete for the $950 million project that includes a research center to develop technology to gasify coal.

The U.S. Department of Energy will fund the largest piece of the facility, spending between $700 and $800 million to find ways to lower levels of carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide and other common pollutants emitted by coal-burning plants.

Hamilton, Clermont, Athens, Meigs, Carroll, Stark, Tuscarawas and Coshocton are the counties being considered by the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, which includes the Environmental Protection Agency, the Public Utilities Commission, Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Coal Association.

The agency will submit at least one recommendation to the government in the next year, said Mark Shanahan, executive director.

Planners said it could take a decade or more of research to develop a test plant with near-zero emission technology.

“It will be the world center for this type of research for several years, with up to 13 other nations participating,” Shanahan said. “So there will be a lot of opportunity for additional development and startup companies associated with that research. Plus, there will be a huge investment in the community in terms of construction and job generation.”

The aim is to extract hydrogen from coal and use it to power gas turbines or fuel cells to produce clean electricity, instead of burning pulverized coal.

The plant would gasify coal by pressurizing and superheating it, allowing carbon dioxide to be captured and injected thousands of feet underground, where it would fuse with rock.

Other pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxide, could be converted to byproducts such as fertilizers or soil enhancers.

Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash said his company is experimenting with gasification at an Indiana plant and will be involved in the proposed project wherever it is located.

“Having our people participate in the discussions and having our technical people working on applying the technology will occur no matter where the plant is,” Brash said. “It’s something we’re very interested in developing.”

Ned Ford, energy chairman of the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club, said the research being proposed for the plant is important for more than just economic and health reasons.

“If we don’t cut our [carbon dioxide] emissions by 80 to 90 percent, we’re going to do things to the planet that are the most severe since humans evolved,” Ford said.