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IGCC gasification of coal and various petroleum products has become very popular in recent years as an alternative to coal fired power plants. They are cleaner than traditional coal fired power plants and can handle large volumes. One of the leaders in the industry is Texaco, who will build a battery limits coal gasification plant for about $1,700 per installed kWh of capacity. Other technologies can go as high as $2,500 per installed kWh of capacity and some suppliers are claiming costs as low as $1,200 per installed kWh of capacity. Almost all coal power plants that are currently being installed around the world are IGCC gasification plants. The industry grew 50% from 1990 to 1999 and is growing about 10% per year. The synfuel that is produced can either be used to produce power or chemicals such as methanol. About half of the world capacity is used for chemicals and the other half for power. The trend, however, is toward power.

Air emissions from IGCC gasification plants are far below U.S. Clean Air Standards. Sulfur removal and emissions of sulfur dioxide, NOX and carbon monoxide are far below normal coal fired power plants, incinerators, combustors and most other gasifiers. However, they still contribute significantly to the "greenhouse effect" because all the gases they emit are new greenhouse gases.

In principal, an IGCC gasification plant is very similar to a Recovered Energy Systemô plant. There are, however, a few differences. The reactor for an IGCC gasification plant is pressurized and in general requires pure oxygen. REI has an option of using either normal air or pure oxygen. The use of oxygen reduces the size of the reactor but an oxygen plant is very expensive and dangerous. The BTU value of coal is 2 to 3 times that of municipal waste. Therefore, when considering both the BTU value and the impact of oxygen, the reactors for an IGCC gasification plant are about ľ the size of an REI reactor to process the same volume of waste. The pollution control equipment is similar other than the size difference. The synfuel from a large-scale gasifier has a higher BTU value than the synfuel from the REI process, which makes the turbine combustor different and an IGCC gasification plant has the compressor on the front end whereas REI has the compressor just in front of the gas turbine.

It would be possible for an IGCC gasification plant to use MSW as a feedstock with some modifications to the system. Various IGCC gasification companies have considered the possibility but they have not yet refined the feed system for MSW and they would also require drying, sorting and the use of RDF. Currently over 98% of all IGCC gasification plants use coal, petroleum coke, fuel oil, refinery tars or natural gas as a feedstock

IGCC gasifiers are inferior to plasma gasifiers for the following reasons:
  • IGCC gasification plants can pay anywhere from $10 to $40 per ton for the coal or petroleum products as a feedstock. By using waste as a feedstock the feedstock has no cost and, in fact, customers will pay a tipping fee to dispose of the waste.
  • Gasification of coal or petroleum products continues to contribute to the "greenhouse effect". The world will continue to produce greenhouse gases until we figure out a way to be less dependent on fossil fuels.
  • IGCC gasification plants are currently designed for a specific fuel. The Recovered Energy Systemô process is designed to take any type of fuel without size reduction or feedstock preparation.
  • Plasma gasifiers operate at higher temperatures, produce fewer emissions and have less of an impact on the environment.

IGCC plants have a distinct capital cost advantage at this time because they have reached a level of maturity as an industry. When they first began their capital cost was high. Given time plasma gasification systems will come down in cost as all technologies do. However, the world cannot continue to rely on coal and other fossil fuels for electricity.

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