Mississippi regulators are asking the owners of a under-construction “clean coal” power plant to draft a plan for it to run solely on natural gas.
The unanimous Wednesday vote by the state’s Public Service Commission could spell the end for one of the largest attempts to demonstrate that “clean coal” technology to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of coal-burning power plants can be viable on a utility scale, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Kemper project has been running on natural gas for the time being. Its owner, Southern Co., has spent seven years and $7.5 billion to build the coal gasification capability.
But earlier this month, Mississippi Power, a unit of Southern, asked regulators to allow it to charge customers more for the increased costs of the coal portion of the facility.
The state regulators instead told the company to either figure out how to avoid charging more for power or how to run the plant solely on natural gas.
“We are telling the parties to get a plan and get a settlement in 45 days that does not increase rates one penny,” Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley said, according to the Journal.
The plant was projected in 2010 to cost $3 billion. It was supposed to turn lignite coal into synthesis gas, capture the carbon dioxide and send it to nearby oil fields to be injected underground, the Journal reported.
Mississippi Power began testing the coal gasification capabilities in October, but has run into numerous problems, including leaks.