Climate change is a challenging issue, not just for electric utilities and Southern Company, but for our nation and the world. Leadership in this arena must address the duel objectives of developing and deploying technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring that electricity remains reliable and affordable for customers.
Carbon Capture and Storage
Carbon dioxide is a byproduct of combustion. Southern Company is researching—with the federal government and other partners—how to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted from power plants to keep it out of the atmosphere. (See also DOE Carbon Sequestration Atlas.)
The National Carbon Capture Center
The National Carbon Capture Center is a focal point of U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to develop advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-based power generation. The center, managed and operated by Southern Company in Alabama, works with scientists and technology developers from government, industry and universities who are creating the next generation of carbon capture technologies.
Kemper County Energy Facility
The Kemper County Energy Facility in Mississippi is designed to capture 65 percent of carbon dioxide to be sold for enhanced oil recovery. Kemper is the only integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant being constructed in the U.S. that is designed to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions the day it begins commercial operations. In addition, IGCC is designed to have fewer nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions than traditional pulverized coal technology. (See TRIGTM sidebar)
Post-combustion carbon capture and storage at Plant Barry
Alabama Power's Plant Berry boasts the largest demonstration of carbon capture on a pulverized-coal power plant in the U.S. Alabama Power and Southern Company, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the Electric Power Research Institute and others, are partners in the project. In 2011, the project began capturing carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is supplied to the DOE's Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership and transported via pipeline to a site about 10 miles away, where it will be permanently stored in a deep geological formation.
Other Research Projects
A Stratigraphic test well to evaluate and characterize site-specific geology for carbon sequestration is at Alabama Power's Plant Gorgas. Geologic sequestration, in partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is evaluating the physical properties of rocks for geologic sequestration and training students in carbon sequestration science and engineering. Deep underground saline reservoirs by injection of 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and the subsequent monitoring of its movement at Mississippi Power's Plant Daniel, has been successfully completed. Another project at Plant Daniel is studying the potential impacts of carbon dioxide on groundwater. Injection of carbon dioxide into an unmineable coal seam in the Black Warrior Basin near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to help us learn more about both geologic sequestration and enhanced coal bed methane recovery. A pilot injection of carbon dioxide evaluates the enhanced oil recovery and geologic sequestration potential of the Citronelle Field in south Alabama.
Another lesser known gas, sulfur hexafluoride, has been a focus of Southern Company's attention. Sulfur hexafluoride SF6 has more than 20,000 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis.
The Southern Company system has hundreds of transmission substations with approximately two thousand breakers that use sulfur hexafluoride for its essential insulating properties. Southern Company was a charter member of EPA's Voluntary SF6 Emission Reduction Partnership which began in 1999. Since the '90s the Southern Company system has made significant progress in reducing SF6 emissions. As compared to 2014, we reduced SF6 by 3,888 metric tons in 2015
Over the past decade, Southern Company, with the Department of Energy and other partners, has been developing cleaner, less expensive, more reliable methods for power production from coal.
Rather than burning coal directly to make electricity, we're breaking coal down into chemical components. Impurities can be removed from the coal before it is fired, avoiding some emissions. Gases that result from this chemical breakdown can fuel integrated gasification combined cycle power plants, which are more efficient and therefore cleaner than traditional coal plants.
Now we've taken gasification one step further. A new process, called Transport Integrated Gasification, or TRIGTM, uses air rather than pure oxygen—and lower-grade sub-bituminous and lignite coals—to more affordably gasify the coal.
TRIGTM and other technologies developed at the National Carbon Capture Center are also designed to make carbon dioxide capture and geological storage cheaper than capture and storage at existing coal-fueled plants. Look for TRIGTM to be used in the 582-megawatt gasification plant in Kemper County, Miss.