The Wabash Valley IGCC (coal gasification) generating plant was built as a demonstration project, and oh what a miserable failure that was.  Such a failure that they’re now shutting down the coal gasification part and will be running only on natural gas.

After it was “finished” it took years of work, with at times 22 engineering contractors, to cobble it together and make it run.  It rarely ran at capacity, and often didn’t run at all.  Operating costs were through the roof.  It also exploded and killed two workers, which made headlines just as our opposition to the Mesaba Project was getting into full swing, yet that explosion was just the tip of the iceberg in the many problems with this project.

Wabash River IGCC plant explodes, two workers killed

More on coal gasification plant explosion

Coal gasification explosion: metal fitting broke, released gas

Wabash River Final Technical Report(it was “routinely” in violation of its water permit for selenium, cyanide and arsenic)

And here’s the good news — IT’S SHUTTING DOWN FOR GOOD!

47 employees will be laid off. Wabash Valley Power Association to cease operations at sgSOLUTIONS



Thanks to John Blair for sending around this head up about the coal gasification plant at Wabash River … more as it appears. Looks like a gasifier blew. This one has a video too:

Explosion at SG Solutions in Terre Haute

Posted: April 28, 2008 10:21 AM

Updated: April 28, 2008 05:14 PM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – Just before 11 a.m. Monday an explosion at the SG Solutions Coal Gasification Plant killed two people. Black smoke poured from the plant which is located near the Duke Energy power plant in northwestern Vigo County off of State Road 63.

Ed Utterback, who lives near the plant told News 10 “I’ve lived here since 1957 and I’m accustomed to the power plant periodically blowing down the boilers and it sounds like steam being released… [T]oday it sounded much louder with a little bit of rumble to it and lasted much longer, maybe a minute and a half or two minutes.”

Power plant officials say two men from Sterling Boiler Local 374 were working on an opening of one of the gasification units when it opening exploded. The men were said to be tighting bolts from nearly 150 feet in the air when the explosion occurred.

Richard Payonk, the plant manager of SG Solution announced in an afternoon press conference “To our knowledge they were tightening bolts on this particular flanged opening on the gasifier. Beyond that, I would be speculating on what occurred and how it occurred, except that we do know in hindsight that the opening did fail and come off, yes.”

Parts of the plant were immediately shut down as rescue crews raced to the scene. According to the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, the fire from the explosion was out before fire crews ever arrived.

The names of both men killed in the explosion have not been released yet, pending notification of family.

John Sisco, a man who says he knew both victims, expressed his anguish to News 10. “What can you say? There’s nothing you can say. It’s just tragic and so sad. These guys were top notch, Grade A boilermakers,” Sisco said. “Great people, great people to be around. And it’s just tragic. It’s a tragic loss and it’s a shame that it happened.” Sisco wanted folks to know “The prayers of every single worker at this facility are with them entirely. These were our close friends as well and we feel we’ve lost family members as well here very much so. It’s a very sad day for that.”

Federal state and local officials are still investigating the exact cause of the explosion. Hamilton Center sent counselors to the power plant to help workers deal with the accident.

By: Joe Stoll and Susan Dinkel WTHI-TV


Production at coke gasification to resume after investigation

Press Release

TERRE HAUTE, IND.—SG Solutions plant manager, Richard Payonk, addressed the media this afternoon following a fatal accident at its pet coke gasification plant in Terre Haute, Ind. Two contractors employed by Sterling Boiler & Mechanical, Inc. were killed.

The accident occurred at SG Solutions just before 11 a.m. today when a flanged opening on a high pressure vessel containing synthetic gas failed. Federal, state and local officials have been notified, and the investigation is ongoing. There is no danger to those nearby the plant.

“The safety of our workers and contractors is our top concern, and we’re vested in working with officials to find the cause of the accident and to make sure we’ve done everything in our power to prevent future accidents from occurring,” plant manager, Richard Payonk said.

Sterling Boiler Controller Ken Wahl issued a written statement this afternoon stating: “Sterling is assisting local authorities in every way possible in determining the cause of the explosion,” the statement said. “Our hearts and prayers are with the families of these individuals.”

Production at the plant stopped immediately following the incident and will resume once an investigation is concluded and all safety procedures are evaluated. Prior to today’s incident the facility had experienced no fatalities since opening in 1995. Wabash Valley Power owns 50 percent of SG Solutions, which operates the gasification plant that transforms petroleum coke into synthetic natural gas.

Wabash Valley Power is a generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) headquartered in Indianapolis. The G&T provides wholesale electricity to 28 electric distribution cooperatives in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. Collectively, they serve more than 350,000 homes, farms, businesses and industries. SG Solutions is a national leader in the development of synthetic gas for use in the generation of electricity for homes and businesses.

As one of only two Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) facilities in the United States, SG Solutions has received national recognition as a flagship project of the Department of Energy Clean Coal Program. Source: SG Solutions


After this election, there are so many things to be concerned about, so many reasons to be utterly horrified… a Muslim database, Trump’s fraud trial to begin November 28th, promise of mass deportations, sharp increase in hate crimes, assaults and threats on the street and in the schools (and online, oh my!).  Trump’s “100 Days” plan was out in October, and has many points, full of words to decode, including a ‘clean coal’ reference, showing he’s clueless, just clueless:

Trump’s Contract with the American voter — the First 100 Days

In the 2nd and 3rd debate, Trump used those two words that have deep meaning to me, “clean coal,” because of Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project here in Minnesota, and because of the NRG proposed IGCC plant in Delaware, both of which were defeated after a long protracted fight.  There is no such thing as ‘clean coal.”


Coal gasification is one thing that my coal-plant designing Mechanical Engineer father and I had some bonding moments over, going over EPRI coal gasification reports from the 80s and the Mesaba application…  And I had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside my father’s boss’s son, who is also an engineer, formerly with NSP/Xcel, who knew what a bad idea coal gasification is.  Oh yeah, we who fought these projects have learned a lot about coal gasification, “carbon capture and storage,” and will not go there again (see Legalectric and CAMP – Citizens Against the Mesaba Project sites for more info).  We know it doesn’t work.  And experience with the few projects that did go forward, what a mess, cost overruns beyond the wildest SWAG estimate, inability to get the plant running…  Trump, don’t even think about it:

IGCC – Pipedreams of Green & Clean

IGCC, coal gasification, is nothing new.  And despite its long history, it’s a history of failure, failure to live up to promises, failure to operate as a workable technology, and failure to produce electricity at a marketable cost, failure to produce electricity at all!  On top of that, it’s often touted as being available with “CO2 capture and storage” which it is not.  That’s a flat out lie.  Check this old Legalectric post:

More on Carbon Capture Pipedream

A key to this promotion is massive subsidies from state and federal sources, and selection of locations desperate for economic jump-start, so desperate that they’ll bite on a project this absurd, places like Minnesota’s Iron Range, or southern Indiana, or Mississippi.  The financing scam was put together at Harvard, and this blueprint has been used for all of these IGCC projects:

Harvard I – 3 Party Covenant

That, coupled with massive payments to “environmental” organizations to promote coal gasification, and they were off to the races.

Joyce Foundation PROMOTES coal gasification

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation & IGCC – WHY???

VP-elect Mike Pence should know all about coal gasification, he’s from Indiana.  Indiana is coal generation central, and has had a couple of IGCC projects planned, construction started, and built.  Indiana’s Wabash Valley plant is a perfect example, a small IGCC plant that was built, and after it was “completed,” took 22 on-site engineers to keep it running, now and then, at a greatly reduced capacity.

Wabash River Final Technical Report (it was “routinely” in violation of its water permit for selenium, cyanide and arsenic)

When they tried to sell the Wabash Valley plant recently, of course no one wanted it:

Wabash Valley coal gasification plant closing!

And another Indiana plant, with huge cost overruns that never started operating:

Rockport coal gasification plant dies – Indianapolis Star

Coal News: $2.8B coal gasification plant in Indiana canceled

And then there’s Edwardsport IGCC plant, also in Indiana, what a disaster:

Edwardsport plant not at promised capacity

Settlement won’t be the last word on controversial Indiana coal plant

Duke Energy Edwardsport Plant Settlement Expanded

The original settlement in September was a response to the plant’s rising operating costs while failing to meet performance expectations.

In the new agreement, Duke Energy agrees not to charge customers for $87.5 million of the operating costs of the Edwardsport plant, $2.5 million more than the original agreement.

And note that problems with Edwardsport tie in to similar problems with the Kemper IGCC plant in Mississippi:

Indiana ‘cease fire’ could provide a model for Mississippi regulators

Yes, in Mississippi, the Kemper IGCC plant is proving to be a problem, and yes, folks, note the Obama promotion of IGCC — after all, Obama is from Illinois, a coal state, and had lots of support from coal lobbyists.  Check this detailed NY Times article:

Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model “Clean Coal’ project: Mississippi project, a centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan, has been plagued by problems that managers tried to conceal, and by cost overruns and questions of who will pay.

The sense of hope is fading fast, however. The Kemper coal plant is more than two years behind schedule and more than $4 billion over its initial budget, $2.4 billion, and it is still not operational.

The plant and its owner, Southern Company, are the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and ratepayers, alleging fraud, are suing the company. Members of Congress have described the project as more boondoggle than boon. The mismanagement is particularly egregious, they say, given the urgent need to rein in the largest source of dangerous emissions around the world: coal plants.

Trump, just don’t.


A little birdie told me there was an op-ed in the STrib that I had to read.  Sure enough…

Right here in Minnesota, a windfall of bad policy

The birdie cocked his shining eye and said:

Ok, how cool is it that I now have my answer to the question “what could Carol and Jason Lewis possibly agree on?”

It’s close but not quite. Not by a long shot… and close doesn’t count.   Lewis is not doing anyone any favors with this piece.  He’s agitating by deviating away from the problems with this project, and by unreasonably tying it to selected others, both projects and people, he’s misfiring.  He may get people worked up, but they’ll miss the boat too.

Look at the way he frames sand mine opposition and AWA Goodhue Wind Project opposition, and his claim that “environmental activists” are stopping the fracking sand mine, but ignoring the on the ground environmental activists who are tracking, (photo)shooting eagles, pulling in USFWS to document the eagles.  And he’s framing mine opposition and AWA Goodhue wind opposition as separate universes when there are many opposed to both and for a variety of reasons.   He also frames it as a partisan issue when it is not — there’s strong bi-partisan support for wind.  There is strong bi-partisan opposition to wind.  Has he forgotten that the Green Chameleon was a champion of wind, coal gasification, and transmission?  Has he forgotten that Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum bought in hook, line and sinker and promoted wind generally and C-BED specifically, that the 2005 Energy Omnibus Bill from Hell couldn’t have passed without him, and look at the way it turned out… somehow the plans for the first C-BED wind project out the chute had a turbine and substation on Sviggum’s land???  What, Lewis didn’t forget… he didn’t know?  Oh, right… uh-huh… oh, my…

And he ends on this note, which is blatant misrepresentation:

… silica sand mining (primarily used to make glass) has been a fact of life in the upper Mississippi Valley for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, there are sand- and gravel-mining operations in every county in Minnesota, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Really!!!  And there’s no mention of the Wabasha County silica sand mine moratorium, begun a couple months ago. Statements like that don’t do anything for his credibility, and don’t help us get any closer to a turn-around of the PUC decision.

I do trust my “little birdie” doesn’t really think Jason Lewis is expressing my take on this!!!

Here’s the whole thing, get out the waders:

Right here in Minnesota, a windfall of bad policy

September 17, 2011 – 3:32 PM

Wind-energy projects are damaging to nature, to taxpayers and to residents, but onward they buzz.

If you want to know what’s wrong with the nation’s energy policy, look no further than Goodhue County, Minn.

Environmental activists are blocking a job-creating and profitable sand-mining operation that is vital to the newest energy technology that’s releasing copious amounts of shale gas and oil from far beneath the Earth’s surface. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is ramming through a taxpayer-subsidized, 78-megawatt wind farm that promises little in the way of abundant or affordable power.

Indeed, were it not for the sophistry of the political entrepreneurs behind America’s newfound obsession with wind, the citizens of Goodhue County might be casting their lot with the likes of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., last seen chasing wind developers out of Hyannis Port. They might also be enjoying the economic benefits of domestic energy exploration.

Instead, it now appears that residents justifiably alarmed with the placing of more than 300 massive wind turbines in their back yards have but one last chance to stop the Texas-based AWA Goodhue Wind project.

The county is asking for reconsideration of the PUC’s June site permit allowing T. Boone Pickens to dump his surplus of GE wind turbines in Minnesota after similar plans in the Lone Star State failed a basic test of supply and demand. Let’s hope, for the taxpayers’ sake, that it succeeds.

Pickens, who has a knack for publicizing energy policies that coincidentally include his own projects is set to cash in on both federal and state subsidies for going “green” in Goodhue.

Thanks in part to Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s dogged effort in extending federal “renewable energy credits,” AWA Goodhue will no doubt share in the $23-per-megawatt-hour “windfall” reaped by solar and wind projects nationally.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Energy Information Administration reports that, by comparison, subsidies for coal and natural gas come in at just 44 and 25 cents per megawatt hour, respectively.

It gets worse.

State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, is calling on the PUC to decertify the project as a Community Based Energy Development eligible for the Minnesota’s CBED tariff (read rate hike) in the Power Purchasing Agreement between Xcel Energy and AWA Goodhue — if for no other reason that the word “community” in this case statutorily means based in Minnesota, not Texas.

The Minnesota PUC, like successive Republican and Democratic administrations, seems hellbent on ending local control over wind developments that swallow up thousands of acres, relying instead on the state’s renewable energy standards.

Enacted under the euphemistic title of “next-generation energy” legislation in 2007, the ill-advised mandate means that Minnesota utilities are now busy passing along the costs to ratepayers.

Because generating power from wind is about as reliable as, well, the weather, utilities will still need to pay for steadier sources as backup. As a result, a Beacon Hill Institute study says the average Minnesota household will have paid an extra $1,814 for electricity by the time the standards are fully implemented.

Regardless of the economics, it’s becoming quite obvious that these mammoth wind developments are every bit as damaging to Mother Nature as anything the fossil-fuel industry could dream up.

For the price of intermittent power, nearby homeowners put up with 400-foot towers with flashing lights; high-voltage transmission lines; flickering shadows from 95-foot rotors, along with the potential for dangerous ice shards flying off the blades during winter, and near-constant high- and low-frequency background noise disturbing to the human ear.

Estimates vary as to how many birds are slaughtered each year due to wind power, but it’s certainly in the tens of thousands.

The Washington Post reports that “one of the nation’s largest wind farms, the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area near Livermore, Calif., has killed an average of nearly 2,000 raptors annually, including more than 500 eagles, over four years, according to federal agencies and bird watchers.” Hardly good news for the bald eagle along the Mississippi flyway for migratory birds.

Where’s the Endangered Species Act when you need it?

Meanwhile, hope for a more-sensible energy future remains hostage to a few activists who get their talking points from movies like “Gasland” (environmentalists used to love natural gas until they realized you had to drill for it). Hydraulic fracturing, known pejoratively as “fracking,” has the potential to dramatically alter America’s economic landscape by lowering the costs of domestic energy production.

The Rand Corp. (a nonprofit research organization) says there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil — three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia — in the United States alone. Remarkably, “if the full potential of domestic oil and gas production could be achieved while also increasing imports from Canadian oil, all of America’s liquid fuels could come from secure North American sources within 15 years,” notes the American Petroleum Institute in a study released last week.

One key component of fracture drilling is silica sand, ubiquitous in the sandstone bluffs throughout southeastern Minnesota. That’s why another Texas company, Windsor Permian, wants to start constructing sand mines and transportation facilities in and around Red Wing for its operations in the lucrative Permian basin. And it plans to do it with no “renewable energy credits” or state CBED tariffs.

It seems that something which is viable needs no subsidy — while all the subsidies in the world won’t make viable that which isn’t.

Alas, the Goodhue County Board adopted a one-year de facto moratorium on the Windsor project earlier this month, despite the fact that silica sand mining (primarily used to make glass) has been a fact of life in the upper Mississippi Valley for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, there are sand- and gravel-mining operations in every county in Minnesota, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

No matter, because for now our energy future is just blowin’ in the wind.

* * *

Jason Lewis is a nationally syndicated talk-show host based in Minneapolis-St. Paul and is the author of “Power Divided is Power Checked: The Argument for States’ Rights” from Bascom Hill Publishing. He can be heard from 5 to 8 p.m. weekdays on NewsTalk Radio (1130 AM) or online at jasonlewisshow.com.


Great Plains Instutute, no doubt working on that Joyce Foundation funded promotion of IGCC in the midwest ($437,500), is doing the Dog & Pony show about their “plan.” They know the cost figures are way off but don’t seem to think that’s a problem and don’t seem to want to update them to reflect what we’ve learned from the Mesaba Project. Earth to Great Plains, IGCC costs a lot more than what you say it does, and even AEP recognizes that and is taking their IGCC project back to the calculator. Great Plains, you’re not going to get away with this level of knowing misrepresentation!

Despite inaccurate information, Great Plains Institute is holding “Town Hall” meetings in a few states, ostensibly to get public intput into their plan, and last night’s meeting was co-sponsored by the Minnesota Project. We’ll see just how far that public input goes! To get information about these Town Hall meetings, first go to their Regional Roadmap site, then to find out more, and it’s not written clearly, we next go to “www.poweringtheplains.org” and then go to right side and click on “Attend Town Hall Meeting closest to you.” which doesn’t have a separate link. And the Coal Gasification Work Group turns into the Coal Work Group on the next screen… Look who’s a part of this: Participants

Here’s a photo from the IGCC Junket — who paid for this trip?



The fact of the promotional Joyce grant was not disclosed by Great Plains, nor has it been publicly acknowledged by the parties participating. Oh well, one more thing on the “To Do” list, eh?

Joyce Foundation Funding Announcement $3 million for IGCC promotion

Here’s what Great Plains got:

Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development
Minneapolis, MN $437,500
To support the efforts of its Coal Gasification Working Group. (21 mos.)

Here are “their” plans:

Powering the Plains – Great Plains Institute Roadmap – Executive Summary

Pathways to a Reduced Carbon Energy System

Summary of Draft of Roadmap

After a quality meal, thank you, Joyce!, we were then to go to tables designated as a particular area of interest. I picked the Coal group. Then we were to review their “Summary of Draft of Roadmap” and comment on it. So what I did yesterday was introduce a little bit of reality into their pipedreams of IGCC, giving them my handouts ahead of time so they’d know. Much of the cost information on Mesaba has been available for months, and other information is available on the web, it’s not hard to find, so there’s no excuse for using such outdated cost estimates. None of this “apples to apples” nonsense (that tired Excelsior mantra) about using info all from the same source, it’s outdated, there hasn’t been an IGCC proposal through a public docket since Wabash River, so you’d better be paying attention to this and use the more accurate information that’s there.

There are two big falsities in the Great Plains information and plan. One is the presumption of CO2 capture and sequestration, which is a pipedream and for which the industry has only started, STARTED to address the costs of capture, to the plant gate, and sequestration on a commercial level is way off, if ever, both in timeline and geography. Second, the costs used by Great Plains, on which this “plan” is based, are off — take their number of $1,402/kW and multiply by 2.5 and you’re just a bit shy of the $3,593/kW cost of Mesaba (and we know it’s really a lot more). 2.5 times? There’s no excuse for that, it’s not justified.
Here is a comparison of the area they’re targeting for promotion of IGCC with the areas for potential sequestration:

GPISD Region & Sequestration Inverse Correlation

And then there’s costs – they are SO obscenely far off in their numbers. They have a /MW cost of $1,402,000/MW when it’s $3,593,000/MW according to the DOE. Their Efficiency numbers are way off too, demonstrated in the MPCA analysis of Mesaba — GPISD says 41%, and MPCA says 36%. Cost, well, they say busbar cost is $0.0276-0.0329/kW and $27.6-$32.9/MW, when according to Amit’s Surebuttal, minus sequestration cost, it’s $0.102-$0.187/kW or $102.33-132.05/MW. Do ya think that merits correction? We’ll see… The tables in the pdf below are Table 1 and Table 10 from their “Pathways to a Reduced Carbon Energy System for the Upper Midwest (DRAFT) that’s above.

GPISD Grossly Erroneous Numbers

Costs of SCPC v IGCC: Feasibility Study for an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle Facility at a Texas Site

DOE Financial Assistance Agreement, p. 1 ($2,155,680,783/600,000= installed cost of $3,593/kW)

Don’t worry, Great Plains, you’re not the only ones way off base here, your other Joyce promotional compadres have the same problem, have the same corrections to make, and the light is on you all. Here’s another example, NRDC’s power point with costs of IGCC that aren’t even close, compare their costs with the Mesaba costs:

NRDC Power Point IGCC

Bottom line? It’s just not right to be misrepresenting like this and it’s just not right to be basing “policy” on this, and it’s got to stop.

Here are the MPCA reports that show IGCC’s not all it’s cracked up to be:

MPCA Emissions Comparison

MPCA – Testimony Anne Jackson

Excelsior Surrebuttal to MPCA Emissions Comparison and Jackson Testimony

MPCA Response to Comments on Emissions Cmparison

MPCA – Final

And what do you think the Joyce ancestors think of an IGCC plant just a stone’s throw east of the Joyce Estate? Here’s info about the Joyce Estate that I got when I went to check it out last summer: Joyce Estate – Trout Lake

The next meeting is in Eau Claire, no RSVP required:

Thursday, January 25
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Chippewa Valley Technical College
Gateway Center
2320 Alpine Road
Eau Claire, WI

If questions, it says to contact Brendan Jordan: 612-278-7152 or Bjordan[at]gpisd.net