Proposed Kalama Coal Plant
A proposed coal gasification plant will get its first public airing Nov. 6 in Kalama, during a pair of meetings presented by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
The council will meet from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Kalama Community Building, 126 N. Second St., followed by a general public meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. The evening session will include a public meeting to help the council determine the extent of issues to be studied under a formal environmental impact statement.
The $1 billion plant would be capable of generating 600 megawatts of electricity. It could begin operating as early as 2012 on a 95-acre site at the Port of Kalama.
The plant is being proposed by Energy Northwest, a consortium of Washington state public power agencies previously known as WPPSS. The Pacific Mountain Energy Center is the biggest generating plant proposed by the consortium since an ill-fated venture in nuclear energy collapsed in 1983 with the biggest municipal bond default in American history at the time.
An application to EFSEC filed by Energy Northwest describes the process of coal gasification at the Kalama plant:
Low-cost feedstocks such as petroleum coke and coal would be crushed and mixed with water to form a slurry. High-purity oxygen mixes with the slurry in extremely high temperatures within gasifiers, forming a synthesis gas composed mostly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
The gasifiers trap inorganic materials, such as ash and metals, in a sand-like slag that can be used in the construction industry. Sulfur within the gas is recovered and converted into elemental sulfur for sale into agricultural and other markets.
"This facility would provide much needed clean, base-load generation to the Pacific Northwest," according Energy Northwest's application.
If the process used 100 percent coal, it would require about 2.5 million tons annually.
By stripping out soot and other regulated pollutants, Energy Northwest bills the plant as a clean alternative to conventional coal plants. A spokesman for the consortium said the plant would emit 20 percent to 25 percent less carbon dioxide -- a key contributor to the greenhouse effect warming the globe.
The consortium plans to spend an extra $35 million modifying the plant so that, in the future, it would be able to capture massive quantities of carbon dioxide and then inject it into ancient lava flows nearly a mile underground.
Conservation groups are wary.
Marc Krasnowsky, communications director for the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle, said earlier this year that the world could benefit if coal gasification and carbon sequestration technology is successfully developed. But he said even a "clean" coal plant makes no sense in the Northwest.
"If you did your test in New Jersey or Illinois, and replaced a dirty coal plant with such a thing, you would get a net decrease (in carbon dioxide emissions) or at least you'd be staying even," he said.
"We have more than enough renewable energy and energy efficiency to meet our needs (in the Northwest)."
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