Combined Cycle, Gas, New Projects

Southern Company Suspends Gasification at Kemper County

By Editors of Power Engineering

Southern Company and its subsidiary Mississippi Power announced they are immediately suspending start-up and operations activities involving the lignite gasification portion of the first-of-its-kind Kemper County facility.

The combined-cycle plant will operate using natural gas, with Southern Company saying the plant has already provided natural gas-fired power for almost three years.

Southern said in a press release the action “is being taken to preserve the safety and health of the workforce and safety of the facility, while still retaining the necessary workforce to operate the combined cycle power plant.”

Additionally, Southern Company indicated the move would manage costs in light of the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s order to remove financial risk to ratepayers for developing “unproven technology,” and the companies are participating in the proposed settlement docket to be established by the Commission on July 6.

Southern said it will make any future announcements on the status of the project based on the outcome of that process or future Commission action.

Kemper County is now three years behind schedule, and its original $2.88 billion budget has soared to $7.5 billion.

Earlier this month, Southern Company filings indicated syngas cooler super-heaters would need to be redesigned and replaced earlier than originally expected due to leaks, and that process could take 18 to 24 months. Though Southern indicated the facility would enter service this month, the Wall Street Journal reported the component replacement would be necessary to establish “long-term sustained operations.”

In February, the company indicated the gasification plant would become more economically viable than natural gas assuming the price hit $5 per million BTUs, though gas prices have remained well below that level.