Enlarge / Cranes stand at the construction site for Southern Co.’s Kemper County power plant near Meridian, Mississippi, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Photographer: Gary Tramontina/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Getty Images)
A coal gasification plant in development in Mississippi is more than $4 billion over budget and years past deadline—and now it may have to rethink plans to burn gasified coal in favor of cheaper natural gas after a recommendation from state regulators.
The recommendation was made to prevent potential rate increases as the Kemper County plant continues to face cost overruns. Kemper was supposed to be up and running by 2014, for less than $3 billion.

But the plant has now run up a $7.5 billion tab and may need redesigns on a critical part, a process that could take up to two years to complete, according to EE News. No official decision has been made yet, but the Mississippi Public Service Commission made it clear last week that burning cheaper natural gas instead of gasified coal may be a long-term solution for the facility.
Kemper already burns natural gas at its facility, but Southern Company, which owns Kemper, has poured billions into building “transport integrated gasification” (TRIG) technology.

TRIG converts lignite coal into synthesis gas using a two-round process to convert a higher percentage of lignite into gas at a low temperature.
Syngas made from lignite coal burns cleaner than burning the pulverized coal itself, and, with the addition of a carbon capture unit, Kemper expects to reduce greenhouse gas and particulate pollution by 65 percent.

The syngas production process for lignite coal was developed by Southern with the help of the Department of Energy at the National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama.
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