In a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a demonstration-scale application of RTI International’s warm synthesis gas (syngas) cleanup process technology has achieved a key operational milestone at Tampa Electric Company’s coal gasification plant in Polk County, Fla.

The unit has accumulated more than 1,000 hours of operation on a coal- and petroleum-coke-based syngas feed and achieved 99.9 percent sulfur removal at temperatures as high as 600 degrees Celsius. When integrated with a downstream system for carbon capture, total sulfur in cleaned syngas was reduced to less than 1 part per million (ppm), resulting in more than 99.99 percent total sulfur removal. The new innovation is a lower-cost way to clean the syngas from coal to levels below EPA requirements and enable the syngas to be used cost-effectively in the production of chemicals and fuels.

RTI’s syngas cleanup technology removes contaminants at warm process temperatures, reducing or eliminating the need for substantial syngas cooling and expensive heat-recovery systems. As a result, the process increases thermal efficiency and reduces the capital and operating costs of new gasification-based systems compared to conventional syngas cleanup technologies.

Polk Power Station was built near Tampa in the mid-1990s and was presented the 1997 Power Plant Award by Power magazine. It was selected in December of 1989 as a demonstration project as part of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s Clean Coal Technology Program, managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).

Today, the power plant gasifies a blend of coal and petroleum coke with oxygen to produce syngas. After going through a cleaning process, the syngas is burned in a combustion turbine to produce electricity, while excess heat from the combustion turbine is recovered to generate more electricity in a steam turbine. That process is called integrated gasification combined cycle technology, or IGCC. An opportunity to improve current IGCC technologies exists by developing syngas cleaning technologies that integrate more efficient process conditions. The warm syngas cleaning technology installed by RTI at Polk offers advantageous heat integration and is seen as a key for increasing overall system efficiencies and reducing costs with even better environmental performance.

In 2010, RTI was selected by DOE to receive $168.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to scale-up its novel syngas cleaning technology, coupled with more than 90 percent carbon capture, at the Tampa Electric Company Polk Power Station. RTI is now seeking a suitable partner(s) to help drive global commercial deployment of the technology.

In addition to DOE-funded efforts at Tampa Electric Company Polk Power Station, there are three other DOE-supported projects working to integrate RTI’s syngas cleanup technology with other advanced technologies: Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Compact Gasifier, an RTI advanced water-gas-shift process, and an RTI advanced Fischer-Tropsch reactor liquid fuel process.

Use of new technologies that use coal wisely can reduce the cost of producing electricity, chemicals, and transportation fuels—benefits that enhance the Nation’s energy security and economic prosperity.