Pictured is an aerial view of the plant. Officials with SaskPower, a Canadian power company which already has a similar facility in operation, toured the Kemper County lignite coal gasification power plant on March 10 along with local Canadian government officials. Pilot startup burners were successfully tested at Kemper two weeks ago, critical components of the gasification process. From left to right are: Corwyn Bruce, SaskPower; Herb Cox and Fred Bradshaw of the local Canadian government; and Ian Yeates of SaskPower. The $6 billion Kemper plant is scheduled to open in the first half of 2016. The plant currently employs about 2,500 people in three shifts and at its peak employed about 5,000.
Pictured is an aerial view of the plant. Officials with SaskPower, a Canadian power company which already has a similar facility in operation, toured the Kemper County lignite coal gasification power plant on March 10 along with local Canadian government officials. Pilot startup burners were successfully tested at Kemper two weeks ago, critical components of the gasification process. From left to right are: Corwyn Bruce, SaskPower; Herb Cox and Fred Bradshaw of the local Canadian government; and Ian Yeates of SaskPower. The $6 billion Kemper plant is scheduled to open in the first half of 2016. The plant currently employs about 2,500 people in three shifts and at its peak employed about 5,000.
Successful testing of burners associated with massive gasifiers at Mississippi Power's $6 billion Kemper County lignite coal power plant was completed earlier this month, the company said.

The plant is about a 30-minute drive east of Philadelphia just south of the Moscow community off Mississippi 493.

The testing was one of the plant's most significant milestones to date when engineers successfully performed the "first fire" and associated activities with the gasifiers.

The gasifiers - the centerpiece of the project - are designed to convert lignite coal to synthesis gas, or syngas, for use in power generation.

The burners for both of the project's gasifiers functioned as predicted in their first test, completing another important step toward finishing the project, which is expected in the first half of 2016.

"The Kemper County energy facility will be capable of powering thousands of homes and businesses with electricity derived from an underutilized and affordable Mississippi resource," said Mississippi Power President and CEO Ed Holland.

"The full operation of Kemper will represent more than the final milestone for this project. I believe it will be a transformational moment in the history of energy production."

The gasifiers will transform lignite mined adjacent to the plant into syngas, which will fuel the plant's turbines to generate clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

"It's like sticking a lighter out a moving car's window, lighting it, and then keeping it lit," said Joe Miller, Kemper startup manager, in describing the complexity of igniting the project's startup pilot burners. "It is exciting to see more than 20 years of engineering and testing now taking shape at this first-of-its-kind facility."

Last Tuesday, officials from Saskatchewan's SaskPower, which operates a similar facility in Canada, visited the Kemper site along with some of their local government leaders.

"We don't want to lose coal, so we're quite interested in seeing different ways of dealing with it, so the carbon can be captured and we can continue operating our coal fleet," SaskPower Vice-President Carbon Capture & Storage Initiatives Ian Yeates told WTOK's Tom Williams.

The carbon capture technology is what has interested power executives around the world, from China to other parts of the U.S.

Another major milestone is expected to be achieved with the production of syngas when lignite is added to the gasifier later this year.

The facility's innovative technology is designed to capture 65 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, which could be repurposed for use in enhanced oil recovery.

Approximately 2,500 workers continue to work on the plant. The entire project is slated to begin operation in 2016. At its peak of construction, the plant employed about 5,000.

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for more than 186,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties.