Rising gas prices in the US and fear that gas supplies will become scarce have prompted a resurgence of coal-fired projects across the country. Energy companies have announced plans to build more coal-fired power plants in the last year than over the previous decade, an effort requiring more than $100 billion in investment if it is to be fully realised. Some 118 coal-fired projects have been mooted over the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department is investing $2 billion in ventures intended to make coal less polluting. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has also announced plans to accelerate the deployment of advanced coal-fired plants. The initiative, CoalFleet for Tomorrow, has the stated objective to preserve coal as a vital component of the generation mix over to ensure the commercial availability of clean coal and carbon dioxide sequestration technologies sometime between 2015 and 2020. During CoalFleet’s first year, 90% of EPRI’s attention will be focused on bringing integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology to the market. Other technologies singled out for investigation include ultra supercritical pulverised coal and supercritical fluidised bed combustion along with capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Some 18 companies have expressed a strong interest in the programme including AEP, Duke, PacifiCorp, and Southern Co.