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WonkTalk: Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC)

Term: Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC)
What it means:
It refers to a power plant that uses synthetic gas to produce electricity, generally from coal, petroleum or biomass.
In plain English: In referring to IGCC coal plants, it means the plant would use high temperature and pressure to turn the coal into a gas, which is burned to power a turbine and produce electricity.
Why it’s hot: Though only a handful of IGCC plants operate commercially, many are on the drawing board, including one in Michigan. When compared to traditional pulverized coal plants, the IGCC process significantly reduces the amount of many dangerous pollutants. And it has better potential for one day capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions underground.
Why it’s not: Coal-based power plants are very expensive to build, and IGCC currently costs even more than conventional technology. IGCC still relies on inherently dirty coal that is mined with devastating environmental consequences like the removal of entire mountaintops in Appalachian states. Finally, technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from IGCC plants is unproven on a commercial scale.
RELATED TOPICS: clean energy
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