The Kemper power plant in Mississippi, the world’s most ambitious “clean coal” plant, was presented as a global model for ‘clean coal’ operations. Photo: Rogelio V.Solis / AP

By Sharon Kelly
2 March 2018

(The Guardian) – Executives at the world’s most ambitious “clean coal” plant knew for years about serious design flaws and budget problems but sought to withhold key information from regulators before their plans collapsed, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

The Kemper plant in Mississippi – held up as the global model for a new generation of “clean coal” power plants – was the most expensive fossil fuel power plant in US history, with a $7.5bn price tag. Its owners, Southern Company, boasted it was “going to be the cleanest coal plant in the world”, in the words of the CEO, Tom Fanning.

But thousands of internal documents reviewed by the Guardian and a series of interviews with Kemper staff uncovered evidence that the company had information showing that the project would blow through state-imposed budget limits five years before the company decided to reverse course and become an exclusively gas-fired energy plant.

Kemper’s failure could be a serious setback for global climate policy and plans to reach the Paris climate targets. International climate agreements rely heavily on developing practical carbon capture technologies that have so far largely proved elusive. Kemper was slated to be the largest coal carbon capture plant ever built, touted as potentially the first of many similar projects worldwide. […]

Documents obtained by the Guardian show:

  • In 2010, before a shovel was turned, a top executive expressed doubts to his inner circle that Kemper could be built within limits demanded by Mississippi regulators.
  • The company knew in early 2012 that Kemper was headed far over budget limits. A top Kemper official sought to hide damaging projections from independent monitors, around the time that state officials had the opportunity to cancel the project.
  • Fanning, Southern’s CEO, reassured investors that he could come in under budget despite overwhelming evidence that the company would never make it.
  • In a 2013 earnings call, Fanning touted a huge coal storage dome as “in place” and a sign of “tremendous” construction progress. Company files show the dome had in fact started crumbling inside months earlier, ultimately opening up a hole in the ceiling the size of a small house – a problem so bad the dome had to be razed and rebuilt later that year.
  • Multiple forecasts showed that Kemper’s clean coal equipment could only be up and running a fraction of the time the company initially predicted. Repairs listed as taking four hours would actually shut coal power generation down for four weeks, a 2016 report warned. […]

Late last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mothballed an investigation into allegations the company concealed schedule delays, uncovered by a New York Times investigation in 2016, without sanctioning the company or clearing it of wrongdoing, leaving the door open to further investigation.

The new materials offer evidence of a much broader range of potential misconduct than previously revealed. The SEC declined to comment. [more]

Bosses at world's most ambitious clean coal plant kept problems secret for years

1 comments :

  1. Anonymous said...

    You mean to say that the fossil fuel industry was caught lying? Again? You can't be serious! Clean coal is going to save us! What's a few white lies going to matter?

    Didn't they get rid of all that nasty carbon too? And doesn't clean coal avoid all those C02 emissions?

    Well, whatever. We all know that the natural gas that they'll burn now instead is clean, nothing to worry about there.

    And it's just money they've burned and pocketed, it's not like that $7.5 billion could have been spent on infrastructure or health care or something else.

    We've got Trump now, the guy shits money from his ass! He's certain to take care of this little problem.  

 

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