Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Coal to Gas Transformation

On these pages, we've been saying for a long time that the easiest and cheapest way for the U.S. to drastically reduce carbon dioxide output and reduce airborne pollutants is to better utilize its natural gas power generation infrastructure, which currently operates at about 25% capacity.  Now a report by respected energy consultancy PFC Energy is saying the same thing

The Financial Times reports that operating our existing natural gas generation plants at 72% utilization would displace most coal generation and reduce carbon dioxide outputs from the power sector by 50%.  This is a change that can be done quickly and cheaply because the plants are already built.  Along the way, the country might utilize an additional 30 Bcf of natural gas per day.

The state of Colorado has taken the lead in this effort by mandating the retirement of the state's oldest coal plants and replacing the power generation with natural gas.  This can occur by retiring the plants entirely or retrofitting them to be fueled by natural gas.  The state worked with major utility Xcel Energy to accomplish this goal (still no word as to what Xcel gets out of this).  It is a win-win proposition for Colorado because the state gets cleaner air and is able to use the natural gas produced in the state. 

With the terrible divisions in Congress right now, hoping for a substantial and progressive change in energy policy might be a waste of calories.  It is therefore heartening to see a state like Colorado show leadership.  Let's hope Congress is able to follow the lead.

2 comments:

wfran15 said...

Your link to PFC doesn't go anywhere. Could you repost a good one on where I could find that report? Thanks

Robert Hutchinson said...

The link is fixed, but it links to an article and not the report. I have not seen the report and I assume it is not for wide distribution. But if you can find it, I'd love to read it...