Neb. coal plant tests new pollution-control system

SUTHERLAND, Neb. — A new system to capture one of the main gases linked to global warming will be tested at a Nebraska coal plant over nearly four years.

The U.S. Department of Energy chose a Nebraska Public Power District plant near Sutherland for the $19 million project that starts Oct. 1.

The project will test a carbon dioxide-capturing system designed by Ion Engineering of Boulder, Colo. This is the first test of Ion’s system outside of a laboratory setting.

NPPD Vice President Tom Kent says the utility wanted to participate because this will be a good real-world test of the concept. If it’s successful, a system like this could help reduce pollution at NPPD’s coal plants.

“NPPD is interested in the project because our coal-burning generating resources bring significant value to our customers,” Kent said. “We also want technologies that can capture CO2 in a cost-effective manner.”

A $15 million federal grant will cover most of the cost. Ion and its partners will pay most of the rest. NPPD is contributing in-kind services worth about $750,000.

The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center worked with Ion to develop the solvent that’s being used to capture carbon dioxide.

The university’s Gerald Groenewold said this new technology is promising and could meet the Department of Energy’s goals for reducing carbon emissions in a cost-effective manner.

The project is scheduled to run from Oct. 1 through June 30, 2017.

NPPD provides electricity to roughly 1 million people in Nebraska from the 35 power plants it operates in the state.