Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment was held on Thursday, July 1, 2010, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Brandon Smith, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Brandon Smith, Co-Chair; Representative Jim Gooch Jr., Co-Chair; Senators Ray S. Jones II, Bob Leeper, John Schickel, Katie Kratz Stine, and Gary Tapp; Representatives Hubert Collins, Tim Couch, Stan Lee, Reginald Meeks, Don Pasley, Marie Rader, Kevin Sinnette, Fitz Steele, Jim Stewart III, and Jill York.
Guests:† Dr. Rodney Andrews, University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research; Dr. Cathleen Webb and Dr. Yan Cao, Western Kentucky University Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology; and Ms. Susan Browne, The Benthamite Company, Inc.
LRC Staff:† Tanya Monsanto, Stefan Kasacavage, Tom Middleton, and Kelly Blevins.
The chair stated that the committee had a quorum and asked for approval of the June minutes. After a motion and a second, the minutes were approved.
New Frontiers in Coal Research
Mr. Rodney Andrews, director of the University of Kentuckyís Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), discussed current coal-related research. Current data demonstrates that coal usage will be needed in the future in order to meet national energy demand; therefore, agencies like CAER continue to work on new technologies such as low nitrogen-oxide burners, selective catalytic reduction, and supercritical high temperature steam plants.
The research is particularly important for Kentucky for three reasons. First, the state generates most of its energy from coal, roughly 92 percent. Second, Kentucky has a heavy industrial sector that is energy intensive, and lastly Kentucky has few viable renewable options except for biomass. Even with optimistic additions of renewable power, data demonstrates approximately 2 to 7 gigawatts of energy needs be met by coal.
Kentucky must focus on efficiency and allow the market to dictate efficiency. Policymakers should not create policies that artificially drive the market and artificially create winners and losers. In terms of policies however, there are options such as allowing nuclear and allowing faster replacement of older plants. These expand energy options and greater efficiencies. In response to a question about supercritical plants, Mr. Andrews stated that supercritical plants do have multiplier effects in terms of efficiencies. He furthered that new technologies will allow plants to operate at higher temperatures, but there is also the need to reduce parasitic loads on existing plants.
Then, Mr. Andrews identified several important upcoming technologies such as ultra supercritical pulverized coal plants which reduce emissions while increasing output; gasification which uses combustion to produce steam power or gasify the coal creating a syngas; underground gasification which burns coal underground and recovers syngas above ground; and a highly efficient process called chemical looping combustion which, in a circulating fluidized bed, allows for more efficient combustion in a reactor and is able to capture more contaminants. The Center for Applied Energy Research is also examining carbon capture and utilization technologies, coal to liquids, beneficial reuse of ash, and environmental improvements such as cleaner fuels. The only renewable studied at CAER is biomass.
In response to several questions regarding building new power plants, Mr. Andrews stated there are many impediments to siting new plants such as federal air regulations and the risk of regulatory uncertainty. Underground coal gasification is one option being examined in Indiana and the type of seams will have to undergo geological analysis to determine subsidence issues, but the technology is not for all seams of coal. In response to a question on special wastes, Mr. Andrews discussed a rule regarding classifying coal ash as a hazardous waste. But, CAER does look at pumping ash products into seams for subsidence stability. The discussion at U.S. EPA will affect the ash utilization and if broadly written it may affect scrubber sludge.
In response to a question on whether the by-products from coal combustion are dangerous, Mr. Andrews remarked that science shows it is not acutely hazardous and it is even more stable when mixed into a stable product like drywall or materials for building and road stabilization. Senator Smith asked Mr. Andrews to compile a list of beneficial products from coal. In response to a question regarding use of coal combustion by products as a stabilizing material, Mr. Andrews stated that it is used extensively on roads and can also be used to line sewers and on water line beds. It is better than river sands.
Senator Smith invited Mrs. Susan Browne, who had requested to offer testimony as a public citizen. Mrs. Browne discussed a technology to scrub sulfur from small boilers developed by a company that she had an interest in. The company is becoming noncompetitive as the economy switches to low sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin. Mrs. Brown asked the committee to resist any efforts to move away from the use of Kentucky coal towards Powder River Basin Coal.
Research Update from the
Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental
Senator Smith then asked Dr. Yan Cao and Dr. Cathleen Webb from Western Kentucky University (WKU) to discuss research conducted at the Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology Combustion and Thermal Lab (ICSET) to present information on their coal related current research. Dr. Webb discussed the development, objectives, and organization of ICSET focusing her remarks on the thermal analysis lab. Several projects including work with polymers and detectors for biological and chemical warfare agents are part of the work done for more than 200 ICSET clients. In response to a question about the definition of nanotubes, Dr. Webb explained that is a chemical structure of carbon which has some unique properties such as strength and conductivity.
Dr. Cao discussed the combustion laboratory and the work the lab has performed to improve coal combustion and gasification technologies. In particular, Dr. Cao identified the chemical looping technology as one conceived of and engineered at ICSET. The lab has developed a cold model of the combustion process using chemical looping which is most efficient in terms of carbon capture. In response to a question regarding the proprietary ownership of the chemical looping concept, Dr. Chao stated that it was developed by researchers at WKUís ICSET lab.
Biomass derived fuel is also an important project at the lab. The fuel is derived from chicken wastes and is partially funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. The coal combustion by product is used as an additive on soils without environmental harm. In response to a question about the environmental consequences of ash by-products in soils, Dr. Chao stated that one can use an ammonia scrubber in a coal plant to create fertilizer and calcium carbonate. This can be use to sequester carbon into the soil. The effect of continued application of ash by-products in the soil is that there would be bioaccumulation of trace metals, but those trace metals are not leached from the soil. The metals are stable in the soil, and the process does not contribute to degradation of water quality.
After a motion and a second, the meeting adjourned.