Southern Company joins alliance to study emission-free generation

ATLANTA – Southern Company, the nation’s largest producer of electricity, announced today that it is the first U.S. utility to join the Zero Emission Coal Alliance (ZECA).

The alliance, a consortium that includes researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory along with Canadian coal suppliers and utilities, is researching a new technology that, if successful, would generate electricity with coal in a process that produces no emissions or greenhouse gases.

Southern Company, an industry leader in clean coal technology research with the DOE, is investing in this technology, which uses coal – North America’s most abundant and economical fuel source – and magnesium oxide from serpentine rock in a process to generate electricity. The concept is based on new applications of well-known science that could double the net efficiency of coal-based generation while producing carbon dioxide (CO2) in a form that can be permanently and safely contained.

The technology would create hydrogen from a coal-water mixture and produce pure CO2. A fuel cell would convert the hydrogen to electricity, while the CO2 would react with the magnesium oxide to form a solid, inert and stable mineral carbonate that could be permanently contained. Because the coal is not burned, the process does not produce sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides.

“We believe new technologies could provide the solutions to many of the environmental issues we face,” said Dr. Charles H. Goodman, Southern Company’s vice president for research and environmental affairs. “This research is synergistic with our existing clean coal technology and fuel cell programs.”

The alliance plans to pilot the process within five years for eventual commercialization.

Through the DOE’s Climate Challenge Program, Southern Company is an industry leader in the voluntary reduction of CO2 emissions. Since 1990, the company also has eliminated 30 percent of the total sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and 20 percent of the total emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from its operations. In the past decade, Southern Company has invested more than $4 billion on reducing emissions and on environmental research and technology.

Southern Company also is heavily involved in fuel cell research to advance the development and commercialization of newer, cleaner energy sources. Last week, the company announced that it is involved in a partnership to build and install a fuel cell power plant at the Mercedes-Benz production facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The $2 million plus, 250-kilowatt pilot demonstration project is expected to be operational within a year.

Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is an international energy company that operates more than 48,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity worldwide. It is the largest producer of electricity in the United States and one of the world’s largest independent power producers. Southern Company subsidiaries and their affiliates serve 12 million retail customers worldwide and millions more through the wholesale market. Based in Atlanta, Southern Company is the parent firm of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric.

Through its Southern Energy Inc. subsidiary, Southern Company has operations in 12 countries on five continents and has a growing presence in North America with assets in the Northeast, the Midwest, California and Texas. Southern Company also provides energy-related marketing, trading and technical services in the United States and Europe and offers Southern LINC wireless telecommunications.