TRIG (Transport Integrated Gasification) technology, jointly developed by Southern Company and KBR, is designed to make use of low rank coals and its first deployment at large scale will be at Southern Company’s 582 MWe lignite-fuelled Kemper County IGCC facility (pictured), currently under construction. Resulting carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be better than those for a similarly sized natural gas fired plant says Southern. At least 65% of the Kemper project’s carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be captured and repurposed through enhanced oil recovery.

The Kemper County IGCC plant is situated close to an estimated 4 billion tons of mineable Mississippi lignite, which is a low rank coal with high moisture and ash content. Southern owns the lignite fields which will supply Kemper County. These types of coal make up half the proven reserves in the US and worldwide, it is estimated. Offsetting the emissions challenges, lignite coals are thought to "have a very steady cost projection". The project is also located very close to mature Mississippi oil fields, providing a hoped-for market for enhanced oil recovery services.

The first letter of intent to explore TRIG deployment, the agreement with Alps Energy represents the sixth agreement between Southern Company and a leading international energy company to explore advanced technologies including TRIG. In 2015, Southern Company Services and Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) signed a memorandum of understanding to explore "21st century coal technology", while in 2014, Southern Company announced similar agreements with Shenhua Group Corporation Limited and China Huaneng Group – two of China’s largest energy companies – as well as with Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute.

Beyond these agreements, Southern Company says "it continues to receive worldwide interest in TRIG from energy companies in regions with access to abundant supplies of low-rank coal."

“TRIG brings a unique solution to a global challenge – how to efficiently gasify low-rank coal while helping preserve the environment," said KBR President of Technology and Consulting John Derbyshire. "Low-rank coal comprises about half of the world coal supply, and today there are no technologies apart from TRIG that can efficiently convert this coal into electricity with minimal impact on the environment. We believe TRIG can help South Korea and other countries with access to low-rank coal to meet their energy challenges."

Southern Company says it has "managed more than $2 billion in R&D investments since the 1960s." In addition to operating the National Carbon Capture Center, the Southern Company system’s environmental R&D includes conducting the USA’s largest demonstration of carbon capture on a pulverised-coal power plant, at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry..

Japan’s J-Power Electric Power Development Company and Kansai Electric Power Company are among the latest international utilities to express interest in the Kemper County, Southern Company reports.

The Kemper County technology is continuing to attract interest despite the considerable schedule and cost overruns, wth the plant projected to cost about $6.3 billion, compared with an initial estimate of $2.4 billion, and operation now anticipated during 2016. These overruns are perhaps not surprising in view of the complexity of the project (see picture, left) and the huge scale up of the technology that it represents over the Wilsonville test facility. Reasons cited for the delays and cost overruns have ranged from regulatory issues to miscalculations relating to pipework dimensions and metallurgy.


(Originally published in MPS January 2016)