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We provide Coal-Gasification project development services, as well as clean coal technologies, coal liquefaction, and integrated gasification combined cycle project development. Unlike most companies, we are equipment supplier/vendor neutral. This means we help our clients select the best equipment for their specific application. This approach provides our customers with superior performance, decreased operating expenses and increased return on investment. 

Our company provides turn-key project solutions that include all or part of the following: 

  • Engineering and Economic Feasibility Studies 

  • Project Design, Engineering & Permitting

  • Project Construction

  • Project Funding & Financing Options

  • Shared/Guaranteed Savings program with no capital requirements. 

  • Project Commissioning 

  • Operations & Maintenance 

For more information: call us at:  832-758-0027

What is Coal-Gasification?

Coal gasification offers one of the most versatile and cleanest ways to convert the energy content of coal into electricity, hydrogen, and other energy forms.

The first pioneering coal gasification electric power plants are now operating commercially in the United States and in other nations, and many experts predict that coal gasification will be at the heart of the future generations of clean coal technology plants for several decades into the future. For example, at the core of the U.S. Department of Energy's FutureGen power plant of the future will be an advanced coal gasifier.

Rather than burning coal directly, gasification breaks down coal - or virtually any carbon-based feedstock - into its basic chemical constituents. In a modern gasifier, coal is typically exposed to hot steam and carefully controlled amounts of air or oxygen under high temperatures and pressures. Under these conditions, carbon molecules in coal break apart, setting into motion chemical reactions that typically produce a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and other gaseous compounds.

Gasification, in fact, may be one of the best ways to produce clean-burning hydrogen for tomorrow's automobiles and power-generating fuel cells. Hydrogen and other coal gases can also be used to fuel power-generating turbines or as the chemical "building blocks" for a wide range of commercial products. 

The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy is working on coal gasifier advances that enhance efficiency, environmental performance, and reliability as well as expand the gasifier's flexibility to process a variety of feedstocks (including biomass and municipal/industrial waste).

Environmental Benefits

The environmental benefits stem from the capability to cleanse as much as 99 percent of the pollutant-forming impurities from coal-derived gases. Sulfur in coal, for example, emerges as hydrogen sulfide and can be captured by processes used today in the chemical industry. In some methods, the sulfur can be extracted in a form that can be sold commercially. Likewise, nitrogen typically exits as ammonia and can be scrubbed from the coal gas by processes that produce fertilizers or other ammonia-based chemicals.

The Office of Fossil Energy is also exploring advanced syngas cleaning and conditioning processes that are even more effective in eliminating emissions from coal gasifiers. Multi-contaminant control processes are being developed that reduce pollutants to parts-per-billion levels and are effective in cleaning mercury and other trace metals in addition to other impurities.

Coal gasification may offer a further environmental advantage in addressing concerns over the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.. If oxygen is used in a coal gasifier instead of air, carbon dioxide is emitted as a concentrated gas stream. In this form, it can be captured more easily and at lower costs for ultimate disposition in various sequestration approaches. (By contrast, when coal burns or is reacted in air, 80 percent of which is nitrogen, the resulting carbon dioxide is much more diluted and more costly to separate from the much larger mass of gases flowing from the combustor or gasifier.)

Efficiency Benefits

Efficiency gains are another benefit of coal gasification. In a typical coal combustion plant, heat from burning coal is used to boil water, making steam that drives a steam turbine-generator. Only a third of the energy value of coal is actually converted into electricity by most combustion plants, the rest is lost as waste heat.

A coal gasification power plant, however, typically gets dual duty from the gases it produces. First, the coal gases, cleaned of their impurities, are fired in a gas turbine - much like natural gas - to generate one source of electricity. The hot exhaust of the gas turbine is then used to generate steam for a more conventional steam turbine-generator. This dual source of electric power, called a "combined cycle," converts much more of coal's inherent energy value into useable electricity. The fuel efficiency of a coal gasification power plant can be boosted to 50 percent or more.

Future concepts that incorporate a fuel cell or fuel cell-gas turbine hybrid could achieve even higher efficiencies, perhaps in the 60 percent range, or nearly twice today's typical coal combustion plants. And if any of the remaining waste heat can be channeled into process steam or heat, perhaps for nearby factories or district heating plants, the overall fuel use efficiency of future gasification plants could reach 70 to 80 percent.

Higher efficiencies translate into more economical electric power and potential savings for ratepayers. A more efficient plant also uses less fuel to generate power, meaning that less carbon dioxide is produced. In fact, coal gasification power processes under development by the Energy Department could cut the formation of carbon dioxide by 40 percent or more compared to today's conventional coal-burning plant.

The capability to produce electricity, hydrogen, chemicals, or various combinations while virtually eliminating air pollutants and potentially greenhouse gas emissions makes coal gasification one of the most promising technologies for the energy plants of tomorrow.

 

Clean Coal Technology & The President's 
Clean Coal Power Initiative

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During his campaign for the Presidency, George W. Bush pledged to commit $2 billion over 10 years to advance clean coal technology - a pledge he has subsequently carried out in the National Energy Policy and in budget requests to Congress.

"Clean coal technology" describes a new generation of energy processes that sharply reduce air emissions and other pollutants compared to older coal-burning systems. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Energy conducted a joint program with industry and State agencies to demonstrate the best of these new technologies at scales large enough for companies to make commercial decisions. More than 20 of the technologies tested in the original program achieved commercial success.

The early program, however, was focused on the environmental challenges of the time - primarily concerns over the impact of acid rain on forests and watersheds. In the 21st century, additional environmental concerns have emerged - the potential health impacts of trace emissions of mercury, the effects of microscopic particles on people with respiratory problems, and the potential global climate-altering impact of greenhouse gases.

With coal likely to remain one of the nation's lowest-cost electric power suppliers for the foreseeable future, President Bush has pledged a new commitment to even more advanced clean coal technologies. As the President said in presenting his National Energy Policy to the American public on May 17, 2001 , "More than half of the electricity generated in America today comes from coal. If we weren't blessed with this natural resource, we would face even greater [energy] shortages and higher prices today. Yet, coal presents an environmental challenge. So our plan funds research into new, clean coal technologies."

Building on the successes of the original program, the new clean coal initiative encompasses a broad spectrum of research and large-scale projects that target today's most pressing environmental challenges.

Initially, the demonstration portion of the program, the Clean Coal Power Initiative, is providing government co-financing for new coal technologies that can help utilities meet the President's Clear Skies Initiative to cut sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants from power plants by nearly 70 percent by the year 2018. Also, some of the early projects are showing ways to reduce greenhouse gases from coal plants by boosting the efficiency at which they convert coal to electricity or other energy forms.

Coal gasification offers one of the most versatile and cleanest ways to convert the energy content of coal into electricity, hydrogen, and other energy forms.

The first pioneering coal gasification electric power plants are now operating commercially in the United States and in other nations, and many experts predict that coal gasification will be at the heart of the future generations of clean coal technology plants for several decades into the future. For example, at the core of the U.S. Department of Energy's FutureGen power plant of the future will be an advanced coal gasifier.

Rather than burning coal directly, gasification breaks down coal - or virtually any carbon-based feedstock - into its basic chemical constituents. In a modern gasifier, coal is typically exposed to hot steam and carefully controlled amounts of air or oxygen under high temperatures and pressures. Under these conditions, carbon molecules in coal break apart, setting into motion chemical reactions that typically produce a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and other gaseous compounds.

Gasification, in fact, may be one of the best ways to produce clean-burning hydrogen for tomorrow's automobiles and power-generating fuel cells. Hydrogen and other coal gases can also be used to fuel power-generating turbines or as the chemical "building blocks" for a wide range of commercial products. 

The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy is working on coal gasifier advances that enhance efficiency, environmental performance, and reliability as well as expand the gasifier's flexibility to process a variety of feedstocks (including biomass and municipal/industrial waste).

Environmental Benefits

The environmental benefits stem from the capability to cleanse as much as 99 percent of the pollutant-forming impurities from coal-derived gases. Sulfur in coal, for example, emerges as hydrogen sulfide and can be captured by processes used today in the chemical industry. In some methods, the sulfur can be extracted in a form that can be sold commercially. Likewise, nitrogen typically exits as ammonia and can be scrubbed from the coal gas by processes that produce fertilizers or other ammonia-based chemicals.

The Office of Fossil Energy is also exploring advanced syngas cleaning and conditioning processes that are even more effective in eliminating emissions from coal gasifiers. Multi-contaminant control processes are being developed that reduce pollutants to parts-per-billion levels and are effective in cleaning mercury and other trace metals in addition to other impurities.

Coal gasification may offer a further environmental advantage in addressing concerns over the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.. If oxygen is used in a coal gasifier instead of air, carbon dioxide is emitted as a concentrated gas stream. In this form, it can be captured more easily and at lower costs for ultimate disposition in various sequestration approaches. (By contrast, when coal burns or is reacted in air, 80 percent of which is nitrogen, the resulting carbon dioxide is much more diluted and more costly to separate from the much larger mass of gases flowing from the combustor or gasifier.)

Efficiency Benefits

Efficiency gains are another benefit of coal gasification. In a typical coal combustion plant, heat from burning coal is used to boil water, making steam that drives a steam turbine-generator. Only a third of the energy value of coal is actually converted into electricity by most combustion plants, the rest is lost as waste heat.

A coal gasification power plant, however, typically gets dual duty from the gases it produces. First, the coal gases, cleaned of their impurities, are fired in a gas turbine - much like natural gas - to generate one source of electricity. The hot exhaust of the gas turbine is then used to generate steam for a more conventional steam turbine-generator. This dual source of electric power, called a "combined cycle," converts much more of coal's inherent energy value into useable electricity. The fuel efficiency of a coal gasification power plant can be boosted to 50 percent or more.

Future concepts that incorporate a fuel cell or fuel cell-gas turbine hybrid could achieve even higher efficiencies, perhaps in the 60 percent range, or nearly twice today's typical coal combustion plants. And if any of the remaining waste heat can be channeled into process steam or heat, perhaps for nearby factories or district heating plants, the overall fuel use efficiency of future gasification plants could reach 70 to 80 percent.

Higher efficiencies translate into more economical electric power and potential savings for ratepayers. A more efficient plant also uses less fuel to generate power, meaning that less carbon dioxide is produced. In fact, coal gasification power processes under development by the Energy Department could cut the formation of carbon dioxide by 40 percent or more compared to today's conventional coal-burning plant.

The capability to produce electricity, hydrogen, chemicals, or various combinations while virtually eliminating air pollutants and potentially greenhouse gas emissions makes coal gasification one of the most promising technologies for the energy plants of tomorrow.

COAL is our most abundant fossil fuel. The United States has more coal than the rest of the world has oil. There is still enough coal underground in this country to provide energy for the next 200 to 300 years.

But coal is not a perfect fuel.

Trapped inside coal are traces of impurities like sulfur and nitrogen. When coal burns, these impurities are released into the air.

While floating in the air, these substances can combine with water vapor (for example, in clouds) and form droplets that fall to earth as weak forms of sulfuric and nitric acid scientists call it "acid rain."

There are also tiny specks of minerals including common dirt mixed in coal. These tiny particles don't burn and make up the ash left behind in a coal combustor. Some of the tiny particles also get caught up in the swirling combustion gases and, along with water vapor, form the smoke that comes out of a coal plant's smokestack. Some of these particles are so small that 30 of them laid side-by-side would barely equal the width of a human hair!

Also, coal like all fossil fuels is formed out of carbon. All living things - even people - are made up of carbon. (Remember - coal started out as living plants.) But when coal burns, its carbon combines with oxygen in the air and forms carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas, but in the atmosphere, it is one of several gases that can trap the earth's heat. Many scientists believe this is causing the earth's temperature to rise, and this warming could be altering the earth's climate (read more about the "greenhouse effect").

Sounds like coal is a dirty fuel to burn. Many years ago, it was. But things have changed. Especially in the last 20 years, scientists have developed ways to capture the pollutants trapped in coal before the impurities can escape into the atmosphere. Today, we have technology that can filter out 99 percent of the tiny particles and remove more than 95 percent of the acid rain pollutants in coal.

We also have new technologies that cut back on the release of carbon dioxide by burning coal more efficiently.

Many of these technologies belong to a family of energy systems called "clean coal technologies." Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Government has invested more than $2 billion in developing and testing these processes in power plants and factories around the country. Private companies and State governments have been part of this program. In fact, they have contributed more than $4 billion to these projects.

How do you make coal cleaner?

Actually there are several ways.

Take sulfur, for example. Sulfur is a yellowish substance that exists in tiny amounts in coal. In some coals found in Ohio , Pennsylvania , West Virginia and other eastern states, sulfur makes up from 3 to 10 percent of the weight of coal.

For some coals found in Wyoming , Montana and other western states (as well as some places in the East), the sulfur can be only 1/100ths (or less than 1 percent) of the weight of the coal. Still, it is important that most of this sulfur be removed before it goes up a power plant's smokestack.

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Coal Molecule

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Although coal is primarily a mixture of carbon (black) and hydrogen (red) atoms, sulfur atoms (yellow) are also trapped in coal, primarily in two forms. In one form, the sulfur is a separate particle often linked with iron (green) with no connection to the carbon atoms, as in the center of the drawing. In the second form, sulfur is chemically bound to the carbon atoms, such as in the upper left.

One way is to clean the coal before it arrives at the power plant. One of the ways this is done is by simply crushing the coal into small chunks and washing it. Some of the sulfur that exists in tiny specks in coal (called "pyritic sulfur " because it is combined with iron to form iron pyrite, otherwise known as "fool's gold) can be washed out of the coal in this manner. Typically, in one washing process, the coal chunks are fed into a large water-filled tank. The coal floats to the surface while the sulfur impurities sink. There are facilities around the country called "coal preparation plants" that clean coal this way.

Not all of coal's sulfur can be removed like this, however. Some of the sulfur in coal is actually chemically connected to coal's carbon molecules instead of existing as separate particles. This type of sulfur is called "organic sulfur," and washing won't remove it. Several process have been tested to mix the coal with chemicals that break the sulfur away from the coal molecules, but most of these processes have proven too expensive. Scientists are still working to reduce the cost of these chemical cleaning processes.

Most modern power plants and all plants built after 1978 are required to have special devices installed that clean the sulfur from the coal's combustion gases before the gases go up the smokestack. The technical name for these devices is "flue gas desulfurization units," but most people just call them "scrubbers" because they "scrub" the sulfur out of the smoke released by coal-burning boilers.

How do scrubbers work?

Most scrubbers rely on a very common substance found in nature called "limestone." We literally have mountains of limestone throughout this country. When crushed and processed, limestone can be made into a white powder. Limestone can be made to absorb sulfur gases under the right conditions much like a sponge absorbs water.

In most scrubbers, limestone (or another similar material called lime) is mixed with water and sprayed into the coal combustion gases (called "flue gases"). The limestone captures the sulfur and "pulls" it out of the gases. The limestone and sulfur combine with each other to form either a wet paste (it looks like toothpaste!), or in some newer scrubbers, a dry powder. In either case, the sulfur is trapped and prevented from escaping into the air.

The Clean Coal Technology Program tested several new types of scrubbers that proved to be more effective, lower cost, and more reliable than older scrubbers. The program also tested other types of devices that sprayed limestone inside the tubing (or "ductwork') of a power plant to absorb sulfur pollutants.

But what about nitrogen pollutants? That's another part of the Clean Coal story.

Knocking the Nitrogen Oxides Out of Coal

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How Nitrogen Oxides Form

Formation of NOx

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Air is mostly nitrogen molecules (green in the above diagram) and oxygen molecules (purple). When heated hot enough (around 3000 degrees F), the molecules break apart and oxygen atoms link with the nitrogen atoms to form NOx, an air pollutant.

Nitrogen is the most common part of the air we breathe. In fact, about 80% of the air is nitrogen. Normally, nitrogen atoms float around joined to each other like chemical couples. But when air is heated in a coal boiler's flame, for example these nitrogen atoms break apart and join with oxygen. This forms "nitrogen oxides" or, as it is sometimes called, "NOx" (rhymes with "socks"). NOx can also be formed from the atoms of nitrogen that are trapped inside coal.

In the air, NOx is a pollutant. It can cause smog, the brown haze you sometimes see around big cities. It is also one of the pollutants that forms "acid rain." And it can help form something called "groundlevel ozone," another type of pollutant that can make the air dingy.

NOx can be produced by any fuel that burns hot enough. Automobiles, for example, produce NOx when they burn gasoline. But a lot of NOx comes from coal-burning power plants, so the Clean Coal Technology Program developed new ways to reduce this pollutant.

One of the best ways to reduce NOx is to prevent it from forming in the first place. Scientists have found ways to burn coal (and other fuels) in burners where there is more fuel than air in the hottest combustion chambers. Under these conditions, most of the oxygen in air combines with the fuel, rather than with the nitrogen. The burning mixture is then sent into a second combustion chamber where a similar process is repeated until all the fuel is burned.

This concept is called "staged combustion" because coal is burned in stages. A new family of coal burners called "low-NOx burners" has been developed using this way of burning coal. These burners can reduce the amount of NOx released into the air by more than half. Today, because of research and the Clean Coal Technology Program, more than half of all the large coal-burning boilers in the United States will be using these types of burners. By the year 2000, more than 3 out of every four boilers will have been outfitted with these new clean coal technologies.

There is also a family of new technologies that work like "scubbers" by cleaning NOx from the flue gases (the smoke) of coal burners. Some of these devices use special chemicals called "catalysts" that break apart the NOx into non-polluting gases. Although these devices are more expensive than "low-NOx burners," they can remove up to 90 percent of NOx pollutants.

But in the future, there may be an even cleaner way to burn coal in a power plant. Or maybe, there may be a way that doesn't burn the coal at all.

Fluidized Bed Boilers

A "Bed" for Burning Coal?

It was a wet, chilly day in Washington DC in 1979 when a few scientists and engineers joined with government and college officials on the campus of Georgetown University to celebrate the completion of one of the world's most advanced coal combustors.

It was a small coal burner by today's standards, but large enough to provide heat and steam for much of the university campus. But the new boiler built beside the campus tennis courts was unlike most other boilers in the world.

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A Fluidized Bed Boiler

Fluidized Bed Combustor

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In a fluidized bed boiler, upward blowing jets of air suspend burning coal, allowing it to mix with limestone that absorbs sulfur pollutants.

It was called a "fluidized bed boiler." In a typical coal boiler, coal would be crushed into very fine particles, blown into the boiler, and ignited to form a long, lazy flame. Or in other types of boilers, the burning coal would rest on grates. But in a "fluidized bed boiler," crushed coal particles float inside the boiler, suspended on upward-blowing jets of air. The red-hot mass of floating coal called the "bed" would bubble and tumble around like boiling lava inside a volcano. Scientists call this being "fluidized." That's how the name "fluidized bed boiler" came about.

Why does a "fluidized bed boiler" burn coal cleaner?

There are two major reasons. One, the tumbling action allows limestone to be mixed in with the coal. Remember limestone from a couple of pages ago? Limestone is a sulfur sponge it absorbs sulfur pollutants. As coal burns in a fluidized bed boiler, it releases sulfur. But just as rapidly, the limestone tumbling around beside the coal captures the sulfur. A chemical reaction occurs, and the sulfur gases are changed into a dry powder that can be removed from the boiler. (This dry powder called calcium sulfate can be processed into the wallboard we use for building walls inside our houses.)

The second reason a fluidized bed boiler burns cleaner is that it burns "cooler." Now, cooler in this sense is still pretty hot about 1400 degrees F. But older coal boilers operate at temperatures nearly twice that (almost 3000 degrees F). Remember NOx from the page before (go back)? NOx forms when a fuel burns hot enough to break apart nitrogen molecules in the air and cause the nitrogen atoms to join with oxygen atoms. But 1400 degrees isn't hot enough for that to happen, so very little NOx forms in a fluidized bed boiler.

The result is that a fluidized bed boiler can burn very dirty coal and remove 90% or more of the sulfur and nitrogen pollutants while the coal is burning. Fluidized bed boilers can also burn just about anything else wood, ground-up railroad ties, even soggy coffee grounds.

Today, fluidized bed boilers are operating or being built that are 10 to 20 times larger than the small unit built almost 20 years ago at Georgetown University. There are more than 300 of these boilers around this country and the world. The Clean Coal Technology Program helped test these boilers in Colorado , in Ohio and most recently, in Florida .

Ohio Power Company's Tidd Fluidized Bed Boiler

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The Ohio Power Company built this advanced pressurized fluidized bed boiler near the town of Brilliant , OH, as part of a joint project with the U.S. Department of Energy.
(Click on photo for larger version.)

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A new type of fluidized bed boiler makes a major improvement in the basic system. It encases the entire boiler inside a large pressure vessel, much like the pressure cooker used in homes for canning fruits and vegetables except the ones used in power plants are the size of a small house! Burning coal in a "pressurized fluidized bed boiler" produces a high-pressure stream of combustion gases that can spin a gas turbine to make electricity, then boil water for a steam turbine two sources of electricity from the same fuel!

A "pressurized fluidized bed boiler" is a more efficient way to burn coal. In fact, future boilers using this system will be able to generate 50% more electricity from coal than a regular power plant from the same amount of coal. That's like getting 3 units of power when you used to get only 2.

Because it uses less fuel to produce the same amount of power, a more efficient "pressurized fluidized bed boiler" will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) released from coal-burning power plants.

"Pressurized fluidized bed boilers" are one of the newest ways to burn coal cleanly. But there is another new way that doesn't actually burn the coal at all.

Don't think of coal as a solid black rock. Think of it as a mass of atoms. Most of the atoms are carbon. A few are hydrogen. And there are some others, like sulfur and nitrogen, mixed in. Chemists can take this mass of atoms, break it apart, and make new substances like gas!

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The Tampa Electric Polk Power Station

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One of the most advanced - and cleanest - coal power plants in the world is Tampa Electric's Polk Power Station in Florida . Rather than burning coal, it turns coal into a gas that can be cleaned of almost all pollutants.

How do you break apart the atoms of coal? You may think it would take a sledgehammer, but actually all it takes is water and heat. Heat coal hot enough inside a big metal vessel, blast it with steam (the water), and it breaks apart. Into what?

The carbon atoms join with oxygen that is in the air (or pure oxygen can be injected into the vessel). The hydrogen atoms join with each other. The result is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen a gas.

Now, what do you do with the gas?

You can burn it and uses the hot combustion gases to spin a gas turbine to generate electricity. The exhaust gases coming out of the gas turbine are hot enough to boil water to make steam that can spin another type of turbine to generate even more electricity. But why go to all the trouble to turn the coal into gas if all you are going to do is burn it?

A major reason is that the impurities in coal like sulfur, nitrogen and many other trace elements can be almost entirely filtered out when coal is changed into a gas (a process called gasification). In fact, scientists have ways to remove 99.9% of the sulfur and small dirt particles from the coal gas. Gasifying coal is one of the best ways to clean pollutants out of coal.

Another reason is that the coal gases carbon monoxide and hydrogen don't have to be burned. They can also be used as valuable chemicals. Scientists have developed chemical reactions that turn carbon monoxide and hydrogen into everything from liquid fuels for cars and trucks to plastic toothbrushes!

Today, in Tampa , Florida , and West Terre Haute , Indiana , there are power plants generating electricity by gasifying coal, rather than burning it. At a plant in Kingsport , Tennessee , coal gas is being used to make plastic for photographic film and to make methanol (a fuel that can be burned in automobile engines).

Coal gasification could be one of the most promising ways to use coal in the future to generate electricity and other valuable products. Yet, it is only one of an entirely new family of energy processes called "Clean Coal Technologies" technologies that can make fossil fuels future fuels.

What is a Circulating Fluidized Bed?

A Circulating Fluidized Bed is a relatively new and evolving technology that has become a very efficient method of generating low-cost electricity while generating electricity with very low emissions and environmental impacts. 

In a Circulating Fluidized Bed combustion process, crushed coal is mixed with limestone and fired in a process resembling a boiling fluid. The limestone removes the sulfur and converts it into an environmentally-benign powder that is removed with the ash. 

Fluidized bed boilers are capable of burning a wide range of fuels cleanly, including biomass fuels such as wood waste.

* From the Department of Energy website with permission

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