August 27, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
To clean coal, start-up GreatPoint makes gas
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Unlike hydrogen, which proponents argue is the optimal fuel, natural gas can be distributed through an existing infrastructure of pipelines and readily sold to power generators that use gas-fired turbines or natural gas distributors.
GreatPoint Energy's plans are to sequester the carbon dioxide that is produced during its process, either by capturing it underground or by selling it to oil drillers who can push the gas underground to aid extraction. It also expects to capture pollutants, including mercury and sulfur, and sell them to chemical companies.
"If we don't build more natural gas-fired combined cycle plants using natural gas, the only alternative is to burn coal," Goldman said. "So what we think we're displacing is coal-fired electricity. I don't care how many controls you put on it, we'll always be more environmentally benign."
The company is now designing a demonstration site set to go online next year, which will be larger than its test site. It intends to have a large-scale plant, which would cost more than $1 billion to construct, operating in 2011 or 2012.
It also will begin testing how effective its process is at converting petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil extraction, in the tar sands in Alberta, Canada.
Perlman said that the basic chemistry of the company's process has been proven. What remains is engineering a plant to produce bluegas economically. If successful, executives say, the company will be able to clean up coal and reduce imports of natural gas, which are poised to grow dramatically in the coming years.
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