Canada makes a law that carbon must be captured from coal plants Some energy experts say that meeting the policy, which states that coal plants must capture and sequester their carbon dioxide, effectively mandates the use of cleaner but more costly coal gasification technology called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC).
Major utilities and technology providers in the United States say that IGCC technology is ready for commercial use. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, in Pittsburgh, IGCC is the technology selected for one-fifth of 159 new coal plants proposed since 2000. But so far, systems for capturing carbon dioxide from such power plants have not been engineered. And of the 32 proposed IGCC plants, only a handful are moving forward.
What is slowing the transition away from conventional pulverized-coal technology is IGCC's higher up-front cost. General Electric, which is providing the designs for the IGCC project that is now the farthest along, estimates that the first 10 will cost at least 10 to 15 percent more to build than a pulverized-coal plant. Other experts estimate that the cost premium could be much higher. That has made IGCC a tough sell, even though it is cleaner, emitting levels of smog-producing NOx and sulfur dioxide closer to those of a natural gas-fired power plant.