NR2339

NEWS RELEASE                                                                            April 2017

Coal-fired Power Generators have Lots of “Clean” Opportunities

In many Asian localities coal will be the only near term solution to create electricity, prosperity and health. In Japan, the U.S. and Europe coal will continue to provide much of the electricity for decades to come.

Coal can be greener than any other form of generation. An example would be a system which uses 70% coal and 30% biomass and is producing CO2 which is injected to enhance oil recovery. This system is taking CO2 out of the cycle. This makes it greener than solar or wind.

Here is another example. Let’s compare (1) a system using electricity from the grid with (2) distributed generation from a dedicated coal-fired boiler.

  1. The first plant draws all its electricity from a utility which has a mix of solar, wind and gas generator sources. The plant needs a reliable power source which is assured with gas-fired power in the mix. The plant needs process steam and heat. Therefore, it burns gas for these purposes.
  2. The second plant generates its own electricity using coal. It is a combined heat and power plant providing steam and heat for local industries or residences. Its efficiency is over 70% compared to 35% without the credit for heat and steam. This means that plant number one is using lots of gas to equal the heat provided by CHP in plant number two.
  Plant 1 Plant 2
Total Combined Heat and Power Use (MW) 60 60
MW of Electricity 30 30
MW of Heat and Power 30 30
CO2 from Electricity Generation X 6X
CO2 from Heat and Steam Generation 4X 0
Total CO2 5X 6X

This comparison is based on a generation mix from the central utility of 1/3 gas-fired power. At higher ratios of gas-fired power generation at the central utility the CO2 is less from the combined heat and power plant. The tremendous increase in efficiency for combined heat and power has led GE to predict that distributed generation will be the wave of the future and that large central 1000 MW power plants will disappear.

This comparison could be considered biased by not comparing a gas-fired CHP to central electricity supply. CO2 emissions would only be 4X. This is the vision prompting GE’s bullish forecast. On the other hand, for much of the world gas is not available. Even in the U.S. many coal-fired industrial power plant operators have learned that the cost of a gas transmission line to their plant from the closest source would be prohibitive.

There is another aspect which will reduce CO2 emissions. CO2 is a plant fertilizer. The BHE Currant Creek plant pipes CO2 from the power generator to an adjacent greenhouse which grows 22 million lbs of carbon consuming tomatoes per year.

This brings up an ethical question relative to the harm from CO2. When you increase CO2 from 400 ppm to 600 ppm plants grow 40% faster. Shell pipes CO2 to 550 greenhouses in the Netherlands. Forty universities and government organizations have completed a study using satellite images which show that the earth is greening. The ethical question would be whether you choose to prevent starvation of a few in the short-term or reduce the long-term harm to the many. This is a complex question as covered in Sustainability Universal Rating System.

For countries with both inadequate food supplies, electricity and natural gas indoor farming with combined CO2 fertilization, heat and power with coal will save lives. Coal can be as clean as natural gas in terms of all the pollutants. China has a policy to invest in air and water pollution equipment to ensure that the entire fleet of power plants has emissions as low as the cleanest gas turbine plant. In fact, with their zero-liquid discharge policy (ZLD) there is no discharge of water to streams and rivers. Air cooled condensers (rather than wet cooling towers) and dry scrubbers (as opposed to wet) can eliminate water use.

Coal is made even more attractive with by-product flyash and gypsum production. This eliminates CO2 which would be caused by alternative production processes. The newest discovery is that the FGD systems can be the lowest cost option for rare earths feedstocks. HCl Scrubbing and Rare Earth Recovery from Coal-Fired Power Plants and Gasifiers are the Perfect Marriage.

Despite pressure from environmentalists more money will be spent in the next decade to build, operate, and maintain coal-fired plants than for any other generation option. Solar and Wind may very well eliminate fossil-fired generation someday, but that day is generations away. In the meantime, there is a big opportunity to make coal-fired power generation:

  • More efficient
  • Less costly
  • Cleaner

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) empowered by the Industrial Internet of Wisdom (IIoW) provides the route to more efficient, less costly and cleaner coal-fired generation N031 Industrial IOT and Remote O&M.

IIoW is created by the interconnection of people with actionable knowledge as in 44I Coal Fired Power Plant Decisions. It is further created by interconnecting people in each plant with the suppliers as in 4S01 Berkshire Hathaway Energy Supplier and Utility Connect.

The biggest benefits of IIoT will come in the developing countries. Initiatives such as that between Juniper and India Power to provide O&M support at Indian power plants and the MHPS remote control center in the Philippines will provide the world’s coal-fired generation wisdom to localities lacking it.