A non-utility power generator is proposing to retrofit some of its more than 9,000 MW of conventional coal-fired powerplants to operate in a clean-coal mode, using integrated gasification combined-cycle operation (IGCC) to reduce emissions and raise efficiency.

“Our point is to prove that the competitive sector can operate in every kind of electric generation,” says Scott J. Davido, North-east region president of Princeton, N.J.-based power developer NRG Energy Inc. NRG has completed initial feasibility studies for clean-coal, brownfield development at plants in Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Maryland. Almost all of its coal-fired capacity is located in the Northeastern states, seven of which have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to achieve 10% reduction in GHG by 2020 (ENR 9/5 p. 15).

“We would like to see this as a multisite development,” says Davido. NRG now is studying whether to publicly commit to permitting and development of one or more of the gasification projects, which could cost about $1 billion each. Davido says he thinks the cost will be “well south of that.” He says the company could develop as many as three IGCC projects concurrently.

IGCC is widely regarded as the cleanest of the current clean coal technologies, but it costs more than the others (ENR 12/5 p. 20). Davido acknowledges that “the first generation will in all likelihood cost more than a conventional pulverized-coal plant, but we think the incremental cost will be justified. We’re going to be far more competitive at doing this.”

Both gasification and combined-cycle operation are established technologies backed by “serious technology purveyors,” Davido says.