Federal R&D programs related to coal utilization are located primarily in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). A number of smaller programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also are related to coal utilization.

DOE Coal Utilization R&D Programs

The DOE Office of Fossil Energy (DOE-FE) is responsible for pursuing research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) efforts to make coal power plants less expensive, cleaner, and more efficient. These efforts are administered through the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and are focused on developing cost-effective coal use technologies and environmental controls that have the potential to yield near-zero emissions (NETL, 2006a). The NETL RD&D programs include Gasification, Advanced Turbines, Carbon Sequestration, Innovations for Existing Plants (IEP), Fuel Cells, Fuels, and Advanced Research. Within the IEP program, NETL is supporting research on emissions control for mercury, advanced NOx, and particulate matter; utilization of coal by-products; and air and water quality.

NETL’s clean coal demonstration projects have the goal of demonstrating and deploying advanced clean coal technologies that, in DOE’s words, will “benefit the environment, enhance electricity reliability, bolster energy security, and help to ensure an affordable supply of electricity” (DOE, 2004). Among the projects are two government-industry partnership programs—the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) and the Power Plant Improvement Initiative (PPII). DOE provides up to 50 percent of the funding for each project, and the industrial partners involved contribute the remainder. The programs have somewhat different goals:

  • The CCPI program was designed to support the demonstration of a range of promising technologies with potential to efficiently and reliably generate electric power with minimum adverse impact on the environment. This 10-year program was established in 2001 to increase investments in clean coal technology.

  • The PPII program was a one-time program conducted in 2000 to implement commercial-scale demonstration of clean coal technologies at existing and new electric power generation facilities, with the objective of demonstrating higher efficiencies, lower emissions, improved economics, and enhanced system performance. Improving by-product utilization was also one of the areas of focus in the PPII program.

NETL’s Coal and Power Systems Program includes the Gasification Technologies Program and the FutureGen Project, as well as a component that sponsors

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