By John Siciliano
April 12, 2018 - Energy Secretary Rick Perry will make selling clean coal technology a key part of high-level talks with Indian officials when he travels to the subcontinent Friday.
"The technology we are seeing brought forward on clean coal, carbon capture, is starting to take off across the globe, and I think that is one of the most important things about this," Perry told Senate appropriators Wednesday.
He said carbon capture utilization and storage technology, or CCUS, will be a key part of his trip, which will go into next week. A CCUS plant takes part of the carbon dioxide emissions out of a power plant's emissions before the smoke goes up the stack. The CO2 is then chilled to become a liquid and injected underground where it is stored or shipped via pipeline to be used by oil and natural gas drillers or to be used even to grow algae to turn into renewable fuels.
The technology is seen as one of the only ways to make coal plants financially workable under climate change regulations to limit CO2 emissions blamed by many scientists for exacerbating global warming. President Trump has made clean coal part of his America First energy dominance agenda.
"I am leaving Friday for India, we'll be talking to them about not only their continued growth on the innovation side of things, buying U.S. technology, CCUS will be part of what we talk to them about," he said in responding to questions by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who asked about the agency's pursuit of clean coal technology.
Hoeven's state became the first in the nation to receive a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency to store carbon dioxide underground as it looks to deploy the technology. North Dakota produces a large amount of oil and natural gas, but it also uses a lot of coal to provide the electricity that supports the drilling industry.
Perry said the U.S. will promote technology that will help countries such as India that plan to use coal in the future. He noted that 70 percent of energy will come from fossil fuels through 2040.
"We want it to be U.S.-based resources as often as possible, but we also want it to be as clean burning as it can be and that's where CCUS and the technology that is ongoing at these projects like you have in your home state and we are working on in our labs," Perry said.
Hoeven said "this is the real solution," not "overregulation." The senator said it's not just about developing the technology, but finding a way to make it "commercially viable."
Although companies are building CCUS and carbon capture plants in the U.S., very few, if any, have reached commercial scale. Most are still in the pilot project phase.
The plant that the government had been the most optimistic about, Southern Co.'s Kemper plant in Mississippi, has suffered a number of setbacks. The state's utility regulators stopped the project this year after deciding that customers could no longer foot the bill for the main piece of the project, the part that transforms coal into a gas while removing the CO2.
Southern CEO Tom Fanning announced this week that the company will be carbon-free by 2050.
He said any plants in the company's fleet that are fossil fuel-driven will be natural gas. "Coal is pretty much going to dissipate over time so I think you're really dealing with [natural] gas at that point," Fanning told Utility Dive after making the announcement in New York.
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