Mesaba Energy Project - Energy Essay Example

Mesaba Energy Project

Whenever we hear the word coal what enters our mind is that black, porous “material” used in furnaces and commonly used in grilled food - Mesaba Energy Project introduction. Scientifically speaking coal was formed from the relics of plants that existed and died millions of years ago (Infobook, 2006) . It takes a very, very long time to form coal that is why it is classified as a nonrenewable source of energy.  According to the secondary energy infobook, “the energy of coal originates from the stored solar energy of decayed plants”.


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Different methods are being used, to be able to obtain coal under the ground.  The two methods mentioned in the secondary infobook are the “surface mining” and “underground mining”. When the layer of coal is located at about 200 feet below the ground, surface mining is employed and if it is located several hundred feet below the ground, underground mining is applied (Infobook, 2006). Mining and transportation of coal, however, is not practical and economical for some researchers due to the waste produced above the ground after mining. Transportation of coal is also expensive that is why most of the power plants converting coal into electricity are located near the coal reserves. One principle applied by Lawrence Livermore is “using coal without mining it” (, 2003). In his project, explosives were blown out inside 24-inches diameter holes constructed at the site of coal reserve and eventually oxygen and steam were injected inside the holes to react with the coal and afterwards produce a natural gas (, 2003). His strategy is interesting and very practical but then for me it is too dangerous to employ such strategy in converting coal to electricity.

Our country has the largest number of coal reserves in the world and 90 to 94% of its coal resources are utilized as source of electricity. (Fialka, 2003, National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Mine Placement of Coal Combustion Wastes. and National Research Council (U.S.). Board on Earth Sciences and Resources., 2006, United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources., 2006, United States. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy., 2006, Wagner and Obermiller, 2004). Producing electricity from coal, though,  poses threat to the environment because when coal is burned out, its sulfur content is emitted and when this reacts with oxygen, sulfur dioxide is formed (Infobook, 2006). Sulfur dioxide as we all know is an air pollutant. Due to environmental concerns, clean coal technologies emerged. These technologies advocate the prolong use of coal which relies on existing technological competencies that abolish environmental issues associated with coal utilization at a price and effectiveness that sustain the development of the economy (United States. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy., 2006). Started in 1986, “clean coal technologies” remove nitrogen and sulfur oxides before, during and after burning of coal or convert coal to a gas or liquid fuel. Fluidized bed combustor and coal gasification are the methods employed in these technologies. Fluidized bed combustor uses lime to absorb sulfur and nitrogen oxides when coal is burned (Infobook, 2006). Gasification is a procedure that applies heat, pressure, and steam to transform materials straight into a gas containing principally of carbon monoxide and hydrogen (Technologies, 2007). Instead of burning coal directly, gasification breaks down coal – or other feedstock containing carbon into its basic chemical constituents. In a modern gasifier, coal is usually subjected to hot steam and cautiously restricted amounts of air or oxygen under high temperatures and pressures (Energy, 2007). Coal gasification will be employed in the forthcoming Mesaba energy project.

The Mesaba energy project aims to construct a plant that will convert coal into electricity. This involves what they call Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology (Rangeview, 2002, Exelsiorenergy, 2006, Laboratory, 2006, Micheletti, 2005). Their project will build an electric power plant in northern Minnesota (Exelsiorenergy, 2006). The power plant will be located on a brown field site, a former taconite mining facility, near the source of water and numerous transportation alternatives. Through this technology coal can be converted into synthetic gas that will empower the plant(Rangeview, 2002).  The technology advocates efficiency, lower sulfur emissions and high output of electricity through the use of state-of-the-art equipment. The project envisions speeding up nation-wide operation of sophisticated clean coal projects to facilitate the industry to meet the insistent goals of the Department of Energy for coal-fueled power generation (Excelsiorenergy, 2006).

The process of converting coal to synthetic gas (syngas) involves six steps: first, partial oxidation reaction of “carbonaceous feedstock slurry” in the first gasifier to produce syngas; second,  softening of feedstock with more slurry and no additional amount of oxygen to increase energy of syngas in the second gasifier; third, cooling of raw syngas and producing high pressure saturated steam in a fire-boiler; fourth,  removal of sulfur and other contaminants to produce what they call “sweet gas”;  fifth, heating, moisturizing and piping of sweet gas to combustion gas turbine generator; and lastly, feeding of the produced steam to steam turbine generator to produce electricity (Laboratory, 2006).

The above- mentioned process for me is overwhelming because of its efficiency. No by-product and energy are wasted in this kind of technology. The by-products produced from the first gasifier are converted to molten slag by applying high temperature and pressure. After falling into water quench the said product can be used by the construction industry. Moreover, the heat leaving the turbine is utilized to heat water to produce steam to a power steam turbine. This way , the amount of electricity derived from the process increases (Malcomb, 2004).

We should support this project because we will also benefit from it. According to Secretary Abraham, “the three-year construction of the plant will create 1,000 local construction jobs and at least 150 technologically advanced jobs when the operation of the project begins (Malcomb, 2004).

Knowing the abundance of coal in our country I am please to be informed about the Mesaba Energy project which targets electric power generating plant with a capacity of 606 MWe(net) (Laboratory, 2006). If there is really available technology that can make coal cleaner while producing jobs, why not implement this technology?! And if there is existing procedure that could convert coal into electricity in an environment-friendly way, then, why not try it? Besides, we cannot prove that we cannot benefit from it, unless we give them the chance to operate. I believe that our country should take the risk to continuously prosper. For me, the Mesaba Energy project is better than a nuclear power plant, isn’t it? Moreover, the license of the Mesaba Energy Project is supported by the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) and its  fund was also generated under this project (Excelsiorenergy, 2006, Malcomb, 2004, Exelsiorenergy and Philips, 2004). President George W. Bush will also invest two-billion dollars over ten years to support this project. Excelsiorenergy and ConocoPhilips announced in 2004 that the Department of Energy Clean Coal Power Initiative awarded funds for the project. DOE will provide 36 million dollars as federal cost share (Malcomb, 2004). What I am trying to say is that this “institution” and our honorable President Bush I think have a concrete basis for supporting the said project. As far as I have read CCPI requires aspirant technologies to show at full-scale to guarantee proof-of-operation before commercialization.

As far as I am concern, the promises of the project are reliable because our President Bush, himself, advocates efficient clean coal technologies that will not damage the environment. We must be proud because according to Excelsiorenergy news release last October 26, 2004, if Mesaba Energy Project will push through, it will be the first coal power plant in the United States to attain more than 90% mercury control, high reductions in sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions. We will then have the cleanest coal power plant in the world. Moreover, the said technology will initiate a new generation of coal-fueled power plants that will have the flexibility to capture carbon dioxide to meet upcoming restrictions (Excelsiorenergy and Philips, 2004).





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EXCELSIORENERGY & PHILIPS, C. (2004) Excelsior Energy and ConocoPhillips

Announce Selection for Funding under Department of Energy’s

Clean Coal Power Initiative.

FIALKA, J. (2003) From Obsolete to Cutting Edge; Potential Power Plant of the Future Was Once Considered a Flop. Wall Street Journal, A4.

INFOBOOK, S. E. (2006) Coal.

LABORATORY, N. E. T. (2006) Mesaba Energy Project.

MALCOMB, D. (2004) Minnesota Company to Receive $36 Million to Construct Clean Coal Plant  Fossil Energy Techline.

MICHELETTI, P. (2005) Excelsior Energy Files With the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to Implement

Minnesota’s Innovative Energy Project and Clean Energy Technology Statutes. Exelsior Energy.


NUCLEAR.COM (2003) Coal gasification news.

RANGEVIEW (2002) Mesaba Energy Project: Powerful Stuff. Range View.

TECHNOLOGIES, B. A. C. (2007) Gasification.

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WAGNER, T. E. & OBERMILLER, P. J. (2004) African American miners and migrants : the Eastern Kentucky Social Club, Urbana, University of Illinois Press.



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