The US Department of Energy and Tampa Electric Company (TECO) have commenced on a key project to demonstrate a gas cleanup carbon capture technology at the coal gasification Unit-1 of the Polk power plant in Tampa.

The project, which is around $3m under budget, included $168m in fundnig from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

DOE deputy assistant secretary for clean coal Dr Julio Friedmann said that fossil fuels will be a major part of America’s energy supply for decades to come, and today’s demonstration is a major step forward in the effort to develop and deploy coal resources in the cleanest way possible.

Friedmann said, "This partnership between the Department and Tampa Electric represents our commitment to fostering the next generation of carbon capture technologies that drive down costs, increase efficiency, and help ensure a sustainable future for America’s energy supply."

The department has a long history of collaboration with the Polk power plant, having given funding for the construction of the first coal integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant in the US.

"Fossil fuels will be a major part of America’s energy supply for decades to come."

Cleanup of gas at power plants is typically done at low temperatures for removing contaminates like carbon dioxide, mercury and sulfur.

The IGCC technology is also known as warm gas cleanup. For more than 30 years, this technology has posed a technical challenge to scientists.

The IGCC technology has the potential to improve the energy efficiency of taking out pollutants from coal power plant emissions, cutting down the overall cost of capturing carbon dioxide and other contaminant emissions from power plants.

The technology raises up the possibility that the captured carbon dioxide can be converted into other uses, such as fertiliser and enhanced oil recovery.