Southern Company reported a loss Wednesday of $1.38 billion in the second quarter of 2017, one year after it reported $623 million in profit for the second quarter of 2016, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The $2.003 billion difference is due almost entirely to a $2.8 billion pre-tax charge Southern Company took after its Mississippi Kemper plant failed as a “clean coal” energy source.
The plant’s low-carbon, “breakthrough” technology was supposed to take coal and, through a process called gasification, combine it with oxygen and water to create synthetic gas and steam. The synthetic gas, or syngas, fuels a gas generator while the steam is collected and used to power a steam generator, according to Forbes.
Additionally, excess gases produced throughout the process, like hydrogen, can be gathered and used by drillers for more efficient oil recovery. The entire procedure cuts coal carbon emissions by more than half.
Former President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary Stephen Chu called the Kemper plant’s potential an issue of “national importance,” Bloomberg reports.
However, after seven years of setbacks and delays and $7.5 billion, more than double what the plant was projected to cost, the Mississippi Public Service Commission ordered Southern Company to abandon the plant’s green initiative and burn cheaper, cleaner natural gas exclusively. Southern Company supported dropping the project, according to Bloomberg.
In order for the plant to stay operational, additional costs of perfecting an already over budget, “unproven” technology would have been passed onto ratepayers. Mississippi regulators had already authorized an increase in prices once and refused to do it again, according to WSJ.
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