NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                                MAY 2015

How to Make Coal Plants Greener

The common wisdom is that only with CO2 capture can coal-fired power plants be green.  However, McIlvaine Company concludes that the lowest cost equivalent greenhouse gas reduction will come from coal-fired power plants which do not capture CO2.  In fact, most of the world’s 2050 greenhouse gas targets can be met without either CO2 sequestration or massive coal-fired power plant retirements. Here are the key points:

  • CO2 capture and sequestration is very cost effective when the CO2 is used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
  • There is sufficient demand for utilizing all power plant CO2 for EOR but the demand is in places such as Saudi Arabia and the CO2 emissions are in places such as China.
  • Realigning the word coal usage is impractical.  It is economically feasible to ship coal to Saudi Arabia and to build coal-fired power plants there.  Then more oil and gas could be sold rather than used.  But the political reality works against such an initiative.
  • CO2 sequestration is very expensive if the CO2 is not sold.
  • Coal-fired power plants without sequestration can be made very efficient.

Here is how huge reductions in CO2 can be achieved:

  • Advanced ultrasupercritical technology (AUSC) provides a 9 percent increase in efficiency at 700oC steam cycle over ultrasupercricticals at 600oC.  There are huge efficiency increases compared to sub-critical steam cycles and to the large number of older coal-fired power plants around the world.
  • Cogeneration of steam for other uses can cut greenhouse gas impacts by 50 percent e.g. Blue Flint Ethanol plant with no CO2 emissions due to waste steam from Great Rivers Energy.
  • Use of gasified municipal waste as a reburn fuel above the primary firing zone in a coal-fired boiler has very positive economic and environmental benefits.
  • One of the biggest opportunities is to create byproducts with less environmental impact than alternative approaches:
  • Flyash and gypsum are already useful byproducts and environmental credit should be attributed to them.
  • Many other options could be more significant.
  • McIlvaine believes that a system producing hydrochloric acid, rare earths and gypsum would require no more operating expense and capital investment than a conventional plant and would solve strategic resource concerns of the U.S. and European countries.

More information on these opportunities is found in N043 Fossil and Nuclear Power Generation: World Analysis and Forecast