Worcester, MA and Gallarate, Italy: ThermoEnergy and ITEA S.p.A. will work together to promote, finance, design and construct a 50 Megawatt (MW) pilot plant and a 320 MW commercial facility in the United States using a clean coal technology called pressurized oxy-combustion.
The goal is to increase the development of coal-fired emissions-free electricity generation.
These clean coal power plants could enable utilities to continue burning inexpensive and abundant coal, while virtually eliminating both the traditional pollution (such as sulfur dioxide) from coal plants and the emissions of carbon dioxide that cause climate change. Moreover, the technology can be retrofitted to existing coal plants. By converting to pressurized oxy-combustion, the power industry could avoid shutting down scores of aging coal-fired facilities now threatened by tough new EPA pollution regulations, saving thousands of jobs and billions of taxpayer dollars.
The clean coal technology will be developed and marketed by Unity Power Alliance LLC, a joint venture between ITEA and ThermoEnergy.
Typical existing coal plants burn coal in air at normal atmospheric pressure. The key advance in the patented ThermoEnergy and ITEA technology is burning the fuel in high-pressure oxygen instead of in regular air. One advantage is that the coal burns more cleanly and efficiently, producing more electricity for a given amount of fuel.
The high pressure makes it possible to condense—or turn into liquid—the gasses that are normally emitted through the smokestack. As a result, nearly 100 percent of conventional pollutants such as NOx, SO2, SO3 and mercury, along with carbon dioxide, can be captured and then safely disposed of, sequestered or recycled. In addition, the extracted water can be recycled, dramatically lowering water consumption.
While experts say that pressurized oxy-combustion holds tremendous promise, it's not yet clear what the optimal pressure will be for commercial plants.
ThermoEnergy holds patents for very high pressure systems, while ITEA has patents on approaches that use somewhat lower pressures. Together the companies' patents cover a broad range of possible pressures. The agreement to give patent royalties to the Joint Venture gives Unity Power Alliance a powerful intellectual property position, along with the flexibility to test and deploy designs that will achieve optimal results and speed commercialization of the technology.
ITEA has proven industrial experience with flameless pressurized oxy-combustion, and already operates a 5 MW thermal energy (MWth) in Italy that tests a wide variety of fuels. The company also has deployed a 15 MWth commercial plant in Singapore. ITEA's efforts have been supported by Rome-based ENEL S.p.A., one of the world's largest utilities.
"We believe our collaboration with ThermoEnergy through Unity Power Alliance will lead to faster commercialization of pressurized oxy-combustion technology in the power industry," said Alvise Bassignano, managing director of ITEA. "We look forward to starting work on our 50 MW plant next year."
"ITEA with support from its parent company, the Sofinter Group, has done exceptional work in demonstrating and deploying pressurized oxy-combustion. We are proud to have them as a partner in the Unity Power Alliance," said Cary Bullock, chairman and chief executive officer of ThermoEnergy.
Unity Power Alliance managing director, Robert Marrs, said: "Our strategy is to form alliances with engineering companies, utilities, independent power producers, air separators, service companies, CO2 pipeline companies, transportation companies, and other key industry stakeholders who believe near zero emissions fossil fuel power production is a desirable and achievable near-term goal. Over the next few weeks and months, we expect to announce the names of major power industry participants that will be joining the Unity Power Alliance to lend their support."
Unity Power Alliance expects to begin building a 50 MW pressurized oxy-combustion power plant next year in the United States that will serve as the gateway to a 320 MW electricity-producing commercial power plant.