Back To Coal: Why Utilities Must Reconsider This Cheap, Plentiful Fuel

  • ID: 307833
  • September 2004
  • 228 pages
  • Peter R. Savage Reports
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Why Coal Makes Sense Now and How It Will Be A Bridge To The Future Hydrogen Economy

Energy prices are soaring. Natural gas, in particular, has stopped being the 'cheap, clean bargain' that solved utilities' environmental problems. Instead, soaring natural gas prices have turned it into the No.1 headache for utilities. Poorly thought-out schemes to import
liquefied natural gas from OPEC nations aren't going to solve the mounting crisis. Just look at how OPEC is currently manipulating the price of crude oil. There's only one realistic answer, and it's coal.

Coal is cheap and plentiful. It's an ideal utility fuel. And it doesn't have to be 'dirty' or 'polluting' anymore. Back To Coal: Why Utilities Must Reconsider This Cheap, Plentiful Fuel is an up-to-the-minute, highly readable, comprehensive 228-page report
that tells you in detail:

- How coal combustion has evolved, detailing many new efficiency improvements
- Why coal gasification is now a realistic contender for electricity generation
- What's emerging in the way of efficient clean-up techniques to solve SOx, NOx and mercury problems
- How gasification-based IGCCs will help utilities be the founders READ MORE >

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Executive Summary
Chapter 1: Why Coal Is Coming Back
A Roadmap For Coal's Return
A Coal Boom In China
Elsewhere In Asia
Reawakening In Europe
Electricity Growth Seems Unstoppable
Assessing The Competitors:
Natural Gas
LNG To The Rescue?
'The Oil Peak?'
'The Oil Companies Have It All Figured Out…"
Fuel Oil
Wave, Wind, Solar & Other Renewables
Coal & The Hydrogen Economy
What Does Reality Tell Us?
What Does Prudent Risk Management Tell Us?
Chapter 2: Know Your Coal
Coal Types
Coal Worldwide
Who Are The Coal Owners?
Chapter 3: Coal Preparation & Upgrading
Current Techniques
Flotation, Chemical Treatment, Etc.
Drying Lignite
Improving Low-Grade Coal
Upgrading Alaskan Coal
Triboelectric Cleaning
Why Not Upgrade At The Plant?
Future Potential:
Supercritical Extraction?
Liquid Carbon Dioxide?
Solvent Extraction?
Chapter 4: Modern Coal Combustion
Types of Boiler
Supercritical/Ultrasupercritical Boilers
German Progress
Danish Progress
European THERMIE Efforts
South Korean Complex, Australian Efforts
Benson Boilers
Japan's Higher Efficiency Program
PCC Units
Corn Belt Energy Project
Wringing Better Performance From PCCs
Fluidized Bed Units
FBCs in China
Jacksonville JEA Project
FW Compact FBC Unit
Finnish Hybrid-Fuelled FBC
Tidd/Ohio Power PFBC
Cottbus PFBC
McIntosh Pressurized CFB
West Virginia Project
TRW Slagging Combustor
Improved Sootblowing Techniques
How About Recycling The CO2?
Hybrid Combustion/Gasification Concept?
Chapter 5: On To Higher Efficiency
Proven Gasification Processes
Demonstration Plants: Polk, Wabash
Potential Wabash Successor
Europe's Big Demo Plant
UK Plans
Different In Italy
Australian IGCC Research
The 'Texaco' Gasifier
Shell Global Solutions
British Gas/Lurgi Gasifier
Rival Gasifiers:
KRW Gasifier
Transport Gasifier
IGT U-Gas Gasifier
Hybrid Gasification Project
EnviRes 'Hymelt' Technology
Japanese Efforts
Trying Low-Grade Coal in MN Cogen
Could Pulse Combustion Cut O2 Needs?
Fresh Ideas
' Chemical Looping'
Hybrid Power & Fuels
Other Hybrid Concepts
What FutureGen Hopes To Prove
Is There A Retrofitting Opportunity?
Conclusions: Gasification
Getting Fancy: Fuel Cells, MHD, Etc.
Fuel Cells
Have We Picked The Right Turbines?
CCLC Heat Recovery
Thermoelectric Heat Recovery

Chapter 6: Gas Treatment
Key Issues In Plant Emissions
'Acid Rain'
Mercury, et al.
Variations On Treatment Options
Cut The NOx Generation
Low-NOx Burners
Coal Reburning In Cyclone Boilers
Low NOx Cell Burner Retrofit
Tangentially-Fired Low NOx Technique
Gas Reburning & Low NOx In Wall-Fired Burners
Sulfur: "Been There, Done That"
Existing Technologies
Milliken Trial
RVS-1 Sorbent
Gas Suspension Adsorption
Combined Zone Dispersion
LIFAC Sorbent Injection
AFGD Process
CT-121/Bubbling Jet Reactor
Combined SOx/NOx Techniques:
Gas Reburning/Sorbent Injection
Integrated Dry SOx/NOx Control
LIMB/Coolside Method
SNOx For Deep Reduction
AIRborne/B&W Process
'Low NOx Is Not No NOx'
The SCR Approach
Developing Technologies
Nailing Them All
Combined Removal Technique
Take Out NOx and Mercury Together
NeuCo's Integrated Approach
Pegasus Project
Solid Sorbents
Rethinking Claus
Nailing Mercury
Unfancy Hg Adsorbents
Boosting Particulates Performance
Bugs, Again?
Turn The Phage
Nanotech Answers
Chapter 7: Disposal Issues
Coal Ash
Coal Fines
Dangerous (& Valuable) Stuff
Chapter 8: CO2, The Universal Leveler
'Perception is Reality'
What Do We Do About the CO2?
Three-Step Remedy
A Hidden Benefit For Coal
Marine Concepts
CO2's Hazards
Natural Remedies
Chapter 9: The Poisoned Chalice
The Disruptive Effect Of Emissions Trading
The Unlevel Playing Field
Political Issues
The 'All Or Nothing' Fallacy
The Gordian Knot Of Red Tape
The Environmental-Conservationist Lobby
Price Uncertainty
Doubts About New Technologies
Negative Thinking About IGCC
There's Always An Excuse For Indecision
'The Perfect Is The Enemy of the Good'
The Uncertainty of Forecasts
How Do You Fund It?
The Failure of Incomplete Deregulation
Case Studies: What Real World Players Are Doing
Peabody Energy
Chapter 10: Making Your Case
The Nature Of The Problem
Consider The Virtues of Heresy
An Integrated Strategy
Dealing With Environmental Arguments
Getting Your Message Across
Epilogue: The Way Forward

List of Tables
- The DOE/EPRI/CURC 'Roadmap' Goals
- Technology Milestones in DOE/EPRI/CURC 'Roadmap'
- Critical Technology Needs in Coal Utilization, 2002-2020
- US Price Evolution of Coal & Natural Gas, 1950-2002
- US Wellhead Gas Prices 1994-2004
- Current Cost of Fuels to US Electric Utilities
- UK Costs of Electricity from Various Energy Sources, 2004
- US Total Generation of Electric Power 2003-2004
- US Coal Production by State and Coal Rank, 2002
- Proven World Coal Reserves, End-2002
- Leading Coal Companies in the US
- World's Major Coal-Producing Organizations, 2003
- Comparison of Electricity-Generating Coal Utilization Process Types

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This report is intended for executives in the power industry (especially those involved in planning and strategy), industrial consumers of power, banks and other suppliers of capital, regulators, those engaged in the exploitation of coal resources, and engineers striving to perfect systems based on the cheapest, most reliable source of hydrocarbons for power-raising purposes.

Over the past few decades, coal has fallen out of favor with the public, despite its hunger for cheap, plentiful and reliable supplies of electricity. Not so with power utilities, who still depend very heavily on coal as a fuel for older power stations throughout the world. But new construction in that recent period has heavily favored the use of natural gas—sold to the industry as a clean, cheap and plentiful resource. Only the 'clean' part of this equation remains indisputably true.

There are distinct signs that utilities in the US—and certainly elsewhere—are beginning to see 'the penny drop,' and recognizing that long-term security lies with a low-cost, price-stable and plentiful resource, namely coal. In saying this, we do not wish to denigrate the clean aspects of gas, nor the intrinsic long-term reliability and safety of the nuclear power cycle. Nuclear facilities have their own problems—the hidden costs of decommissioning old facilities and the incomplete nature of the fuel cycle, making waste disposal both expensive and controversial. But the 'clean' advantage of gas is becoming of secondary importance as technologies to ensure that coal-fired facilities are acceptably, if not equally, clean. As for energy alternatives—wind, wave, solar and geothermal power—we conclude that there are more promises than chances of significant commercial reality within the next decade.

Consider the principal problems of coal as a fuel:

- It's a solid and requires special handling
- Its quality is highly variable in thermal terms, and it can be wet
- On combustion, you are left with large amounts of ash to dispose of, and the gas produced is apt to be high in sulfur oxides or other environmentally undesirable components

All of these disadvantages are soluble, at moderate cost:

- Solids are just as easy to handle as liquids or gases: you use trains, trucks, backhoes and conveyor systems instead of pumps and pipelines
- Coal can be upgraded and pre-treated to make it of acceptable quality for boiler use
- Technology exists to remove any deleterious materials from combustion gases or stack gases

Economic advantages are manifold:

- Coal is cheap and its long-term pricing is stable
- Reserves are far greater than those of alternative fossil hydrocarbons
- The footprint of a coal-fired power plant is essentially the same as that of any other type (which cannot be said for wind farms)
- Per-MW costs of coal-generated electricity are significantly lower than power from other generation modes, and apt to remain that way, whatever the add-on costs of environmental compliance
- Advanced processes for coal combustion are making significant improvements in the relative economics of coal use.
- If the global warming scenario is included in utilities' thinking, coal offers several advantages with respect to the CO2 generated in combustion, promising more thrifty carbon sequestration, should that become economically or politically necessary
- If progress toward a hydrogen economy is required, the use of coal as the raw material to produce the necessary syngas, during the early days, is also supported by proven technology
- Though nobody can say exactly when it will happen, an oil peak is on its way. Pessimists think the signs are already showing for an oil peak later this decade. Optimists see the peak appearing in the 2020s. But, whoever is right, the rate of new oil discovery is pretty sure to fall behind relentlessly growing annual consumption at some point. When that is reached, it will have a profound effect, whose macroeconomic and geopolitical ramifications are not entirely clear. Suffice it to say, coal's contribution to power generation will not be so easy to deride.
- Widely viewed as cheap and abundant, gas is proving to be neither in the United States. There are also serious geopolitical risks associated with dependence on imported gas, whether by pipeline or in the form of LNG.
- Power companies are already maximizing the electricity output of their coal-fired facilities, in recognition of the short-term realities of the situation. When those short-term realities become recognized as the shape of the future, the stampede will begin.

It's frequently been said that coal could make a comeback, if users could 'get their act together,' usually implying that some radical change in technology is required before this can happen. We agree that advanced combustion techniques and 'clean coal' initiatives are going to be very important in the pending rebound, but also argue that existing technologies, with a more modest upgrading, can also advance the cause. The difficult choice, then, is not whether to seriously make some choice that involves coal—it's almost a no-brainer—but how much technology risk a company is ready to undertake. This report aims to help you make such decisions.

Structure of The Report

We aim to cover the full spectrum of possibilities of this return to coal in a linear fashion, with a few tangential excursions. There is a minimum of history, except where needed to clarify the origin and role of older technology.

In Section 1: Why Coal Is Coming Back, we summarize the economic case for coal versus other fossil fuels (with an emphasis on natural gas) as a power option. We also assess the possible disruptive factors: liquefied natural gas imports, fuel oil and syncrudes from low-quality crude oil, tar sands, etc., and the roles of oil and coal producers.

In Section 2: Coal, we discuss the various ranks of coals and their availability and prices.

In Section 3: Upgrading, we discuss methods of improving the quality of mined coal or pre-treating it for power station use.

In Section 4: Combustion, we examine current proven and developmental techniques for efficient combustion of coal.

In Section 5: Higher Efficiency, we consider more advanced concepts like gasification, combined cycle power generation and possible hydrogen co-production.

In Section 6: Gas Treatment, we examine current and emerging technologies for desulfurization and removal of other environmentally harmful components in post-combustion products.

In Section 7: Disposal, we consider methods of disposing of ash, sulfur and other by-products in an economically neutral or value-added manner.

In Section 8: CO2, The Universal Leveler, we consider an emerging issue that confronts all fossil hydrocarbon energy sources: is carbon dioxide sequestration feasible?

In Section 9: The Poisoned Chalice, we discuss the factors that are delaying progress of clean coal and more efficient coal-fired plants. These include inertia, fear of change, politics, red tape and uncertainty.

Section 10: Making A Case considers how companies can strategize the permitting process, and how they can seek to counter extremist environmentalist arguments and win community support. How 'being green' can avoid many roadblocks and build consumer support.

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Companies Mentioned:

Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy
McIlvaine Co.
National Energy Technology Laboratory
International Energy Agency
Coal Utilization Research Council
US Department of Energy
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
General Electric
Lehigh University
Electric Power Research Institute
Barr Engineering
Alaska Cowboy Coal Power Consortium
Fuels Management, Inc.
Pittsburg Energy Technology Center
Energy BioSystems Inc.
Brookhaven Science Associates
SulphCo., Inc.
Japan Chemical Research Institute
National Institute of Materials & Chemical Research
Southern Illinois University
Korea Electric Power Co.
Millmerran Power
OzGen B.V.
China Huaneng Group
Marubeni Corp.
EIF Group
Tohoku Power Co., Inc.
Corn Belt Energy Corp.
Babcock Borsig Power
Peabody Energy
The Center for Coal Utilization Japan
Foster Wheeler
National Power Supply Thailand
CFB Oy Alholmens Kraft AB
Ohio Power Co.
American Electric Power
Babcock & Wilcox
Stadtwerke Cottbus GmbH
ABB Kraftwerke AG
ABB Carbon
City of Lakeland
Lakeland Electric
Energy & Environmental Research Corp.
ClearStack Combustion Corp.
Ameren Energy Generating Co.
Royal Dutch/Shell
Excelsior Energy Inc.
Empresa Nacional de Electricid
Iberdrola SA
National Power
Babcock & Wilcox Espanola
Krupp Uhde
Sierra Pacific Power Co.
Gas Research Institute
Southern Company
Basin Electric Power Cooperative
EnviRes LLC
New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization
Minnesota Power
Medicine Bow Fuel & Power LLC
Fuel Cell Energy Inc.
Tokyo Electric Power
WOW Energy
Wisconsin Power & Light
Public Service Co. of Colorado
New York State Electric & Gas Corp.
Saarberg-Holter-Umwelttechnik GmbH
AES Corp.
Bechtel Corp.
Pennsylvania Electric Co.,
ICF Kaiser Engineers Inc.
Tampella Power
Richmond Power & Light
Enprima Engineering
Air Products & Chemicals, Inc.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America Inc.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co.
Illinois Power Co.
Haldor Topsoe A/S
ABB Environmental Systems
Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp.
We Energies
Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives
American Coal Ash Association
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
California Air Resources Board

Countries Covered:

The Philippines
South Korea

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