Chemical looping technology discussed

Nola Sizemore Staff Writer

November 26, 2013

After a recent meeting in Frankfort, attended by Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop and Magistrate David Kennedy, an update was given to other members of the court during a special called meeting on Monday.

Kennedy said new coal technology called “chemical looping” was discussed by Sen. Brandon Smith at the meeting, which could, Kennedy added, “make the coal industry comparable to natural gas.”

Kennedy said chemical looping has the potential to reduce or eliminate a wide range of pollutants, including carbon dioxide and smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

According to an article in “Energy News,” in coal-fired plants, coal is pulverized to make a fine powder and then it is burned in air to produce steam to drive turbines. This process makes very hot flames that can create the pollutant nitrogen oxide, and the carbon dioxide generated is difficult to isolate and capture because it makes up only a small fraction of the exhaust gases.

In chemical looping, coal doesn’t react with air. Instead, it’s exposed to oxygen-bearing materials such as iron oxide. The coal reacts with these materials, and the energy bound up in coal breaks the bond between the oxygen and the iron. The reaction produces nearly pure carbon dioxide gas and iron metal. Electricity is generated when the iron is moved out of the reaction chamber and is essentially burned—that is, allowed to react with oxygen in air. This releases heat to produce steam.

“With this technology we can compete with natural gas,” said Kennedy. “We were told there is a pilot program going on in Alabama where this technology is being tested to see if it will generate electricity and how viable this is. If this process works then they will build multiple coal-fired chemical looping plants across the United States.”

Kennedy went on to say during the meeting they were told “coal jobs in western Kentucky will begin seeing lay-offs with the announcement of a coal-fired power plant in Muhlenberg County being closed, which he said “used 15 million tons of coal per year.”

“Our advice to our local coal miners is to be cautious as far as uprooting your families and moving to western Kentucky, because this bad news is happening there,” said Kennedy. “In our meeting, we were also told by the year 2018 there will be 23 more coal-fired power plants closed in the United States. Even more reason we need to jump on board with this chemical looping process.”

Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, nsizemore@civitasmedia.com