Consol wins big grant to help it build coal plant of the future

Paul J. Gough

Pittsburgh Business Times

Consol Energy Inc.’s pilot project to create a zero-carbon-emission power plant using coal waste is one of four coal- and hydrogen-related projects sharing $80 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

While the final grant award and cost sharing is still to be negotiated, Consol could receive upward of $10 million for this project. Consol will also have to contribute as well. Consol, the Canonsburg-based coal producer with three big mines in southwestern Pennsylvania, will use the grant money to continue to design a next-generation coal plant that could be up and running by 2030.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with the Pittsburgh Business Times, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the program is part of the federal government’s efforts to help foster the 21st-century coal-fired power generation station that will have either near zero or zero emissions.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the industry here in Pennsylvania,” Broulliette said.

There were more than 30 proposals in the program that netted the four projects, which include Consol’s plant design. The others are in Illinois, Indiana and California.

Steve Winberg, assistant secretary of fossil energy, said it’s notable that the project would allow coal producers to burn the coal waste.

“Rather than impound that waste, they can utilize that waste to produce electricity,” Winberg said.

The pilot plant was built at Consol's Pennsylvania Mining Complex, which is located in Greene and Washington counties.

In a statement, Consol spokesman Zachery Smith said they were thrilled by the award to continue to allow it to develop the plant.

“Building upon years of research and development, we hope to demonstrate the transformation of how coal technologies are designed, constructed, and eventually implemented with net-zero carbon emissions,” Smith said. “We look forward to working with the DOE, National Energy Technology Laboratory, and state, local and federal agencies as this project progresses in order to enhance value across the entire coal lifecycle — in a sustainable way.”

The project uses pressurized fluidized bed combustion technology, PFBC, and is part of a pilot project using coal waste that Consol (NYSE: CEIX) worked on in a joint venture over the past several years. The funding will go to the design work required before a plant like this can be built.

“The goals of this project are to advance the development of the advanced PFBC power plant to a state of completion that provides adequate information — including information on the plant design, host site, environmental considerations, CO2 disposition strategy, and pro forma financials — for use by decision makers and investors, and by engineering, procurement, and construction contractors for follow-on activities needed to construct a prototype plant,” according to the award.