NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                    JANUARY 2015

Chinese Coal-fired Power Plants Will Continue To Spend More Than Other Countries Or Even Regions

Operators of coal-fired power plants in China will continue to invest more capital in their power plants than operators in other countries and, in fact, more than the operators in any region of the world. This is despite a slowdown in growth demand. A high level of investment activity leads the McIlvaine Company to this conclusion.  McIlvaine tracks the individual plant spending continually in Chinese Utility Plans.

There are several reasons that spending will be higher than could be deduced from demand analyses:

  • Part of the investment is replacement as thousands of small coal-fired industrial boilers are phased out.
  • New environmental regulations require very substantial investments.
  • There is an increased focus on efficient operation.

The pollution problems in the big cities are continuing to drive environmental regulations as they apply to coal plants.  The tough regulations in the current five-year plan have already been trumped by provincial and city requirements which are among the toughest in the world.  They are known as 50/30/5/3.  The limits are 50 mg/Nm3 of NOx, 30 mg/Nm3 of SO2, 5 mg/Nm3 of particulate. A tough mercury standard limits emissions to just 3 micrograms/Nm3.

Most of the power plants are going to have to make major investments in particulate control equipment  The existing precipitators are unlikely to meet the nationwide 30 mg/Nm3 standard let alone the 5 mg/Nm3 local  standard.  Some power plants have already invested in wet precipitators.  The existing dry precipitators remain. They are followed by scrubbers. The new wet precipitators are then added either at the scrubber exit (vertical design) or as a separate unit (horizontal design).

The most economical choice may be to gut the precipitator and install fabric filter bags. This will require the minimum amount of new ductwork. Many of the units have already installed selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to capture NOx.  Those who must address both particulate and NOx will be attracted to a new hybrid design which utilizes catalyst embedded in the ceramic filter elements.

The Chinese have been able to extract valuable metals and rare earths from flyash. So capital investment can be offset by the revenues from the by-products. 

Chinese plants are also subject to restrictions on water use and water pollution.  Many plants have invested in air cooled condensers to avoid water consumption.  Zero liquid discharge systems are also available to eliminate discharges to waterways.

Plant upgrades are dictated by the relatively high cost of fuel and resultant savings with increased efficiency. Also the original use of coatings rather than expensive high nickel alloy steels for some components has led to failures and replacement.

The willingness of Chinese plants to improve efficiency and to buy higher cost products from international suppliers was demonstrated by the success of one U.S. manufacturer of FGD oxidation blowers. Over the last 18 months, the company has received a number of orders for their blowers even though the price was higher than the local competition. The higher efficiency was cited as the basis of the choice. A  U.S. supplier of seals for rotary air heaters is successful in the Chinese market even though the product cost is substantially above seals made by Chinese suppliers.

Chinese Utility Plans tracks the new projects and the upgrades relative to coal-fired generation in China.  For more information, click on