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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Efficient coal power plants are bad investments

The coal industry lobby is abuzz with talk of ultra-supercritical (USC) coal power plants and, more recently, "high efficiency, low emission" (HELE) coal power plants. The technology is very expensive. The carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are very high.

The coal lobby turned its back on efficient coal-fired electricity generation in 2011 on realising the demand for coal would fall dramatically. (See "The coal industry's "War on Coal" campaign is all spin".)

The current buzz is a sad attempt to sell inefficient and very expensive coal technology in the hope of locking naive customers into buying coal and wasting money for decades to come.

Australia's Resources Minister, Matt Canavan is receiving very poor advice. According to an article by Michael McKenna in "The Australian" on 17 January 2017:

Matt Canavan backs technology to cut our carbon emissions

Resources Minister Matt Canavan
Resources Minister Matt Canavan. Picture: Jack Tran
"Australia could reach its carbon reduction target by replacing its ageing electricity generators with the latest and emerging low emission coal-fired power station technology [sic]."

The Minerals Council of Australia issued a media release on the same day as The Australian printed Michael McKenna's article about Resources Minister Matt Canavan. The Minerals Council's media release also made incorrect statements about coal-fired power technology.

This wasn't the first time the Minerals Council of Australia issued the same media release with the same incorrect statements about coal-fired power technology.

The following extract from the article "Setting the Benchmark: The World’s Most Efficient Coal-Fired Power Plants" has two key points:
  1. The 600-MW ultra-supercritical (USC) coal power plant in the United States cost $1.8 billion to build. That is $3,000 per kW of generating capacity. 
  2. The Japanese ultra-supercritical (USC) coal power plant is hailed as the cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world in terms of emissions intensity, but the amount of CO2 produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced is not given.

The CO2 emission intensity of the much-vaunted Japanese USC coal power plant is 802 kilograms per megawatt-hour which is 802 grams per kilowatt-hour. (See "Japan’s Isogo Power Plant Burnishes Clean Coal’s Credentials" for the information: "'As a result, we can achieve a gross thermal efficiency as high as 45 percent,' says Sasatsu. This, he adds, compares well with the 40 percent efficiency achieved by the old units, and it results in a reduction in carbon dioxide of 17 percent. That brings it down to 802 kg/MWh")

In contrast - if you really feel you must use fossil fuels to generate electricity - combined-cycle gas turbine power stations are about one-third the cost to build ($1,000 per kW of generating capacity) and have CO2 emissions of just 330 kilograms per megawatt-hour which is 330 grams per kilowatt-hour. (See "EIA publishes construction cost information for electric power generators" and "The coal lobby scores an own-goal".) Note the EIA hasn't any data on construction costs of coal power stations because no-one in its survey wasted their money building one.

I've got more than 99 pages of research but Matt Canavan's ain't one.

Matt Canavan and Michael McKenna have failed to respond to requests for links to the alleged "research" mentioned in the article printed in The Australian on 17 January 2017.

The Australian Government has wasted taxpayer dollars on the following research. Matt Canavan and Josh Frydenberg copy their "energy policy ideas" from media releases freely popped out by the Minerals Council of Australia.

Australian Energy Market Commission
Frontier Economics
8 December 2016
Australian Energy Market Commission

9 December 2016
Climate Change Authority

24 November 2016

25 November 2015
Department of the Environment and Energy
ACIL Allen Consulting
24 April 2015
Department of the Environment and Energy
5 May 2016
Department of the Environment and Energy
Dr Alan Finkel AO
13 December 2016
Department of the Environment and Energy

23 December 2016

Setting the Benchmark: The World’s Most Efficient Coal-Fired Power Plants

By Dawn Santoianni
Managing Director, Tau Technical Communications LLC
International efforts to mitigate climate impacts have intensely scrutinized carbon emissions from the electricity sector. Coal, in particular, has been targeted as a source of emissions that could be reduced. The International Energy Agency recognizes that “coal is an important source of energy for world…we must find ways to use coal more efficiently and to reduce its environmental footprint.”1
The 600-MW John W. Turk Jr. power plant in Arkansas holds many distinctions. Completed in December 2012, it was the first USC plant built in the U.S. It also reigns as the country’s most efficient coal-fired power plant with an electrical efficiency of 40% HHV basis (~42% LHV basis).2 After the project was announced in 2006, American Electric Power’s (AEP) Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) spent several years trying to secure the necessary permits while fighting legal battles launched as part of national anti-coal campaigns. Under the legal settlement, SWEPCO agreed to retire an older 582-MW coal-fired unit in Texas, secure 400 MW of renewable power, and set aside US$10 million for land conservation and energy efficiency projects. At a final cost of US$1.8 billion to build the plant, the Turk plant also became the most expensive project ever built in Arkansas.
The Isogo Thermal Power Station is located only six kilometers from Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan. The power station originally consisted of two 1960s-vintage 265-MW subcritical units. During the late 1990s, Yokohama’s environmental improvement plans aimed to enhance the stability of electric power supply while retiring older facilities. Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. (J-POWER), which owns and operates Isogo, entered into a pollution prevention agreement with the city. The new USC Unit 1 (600 MW) was built while the original facility remained in operation, becoming operational itself in 2002. The two older units were then shut down and demolished. The new USC Unit 2 (also 600 MW) was constructed on the site of the old plant and started commercial operation in 2009. Isogo Unit 2 operates at 25 MPa (3626 psi) and 600°C/620°C reheat achieving 45% efficiency, while Unit 1 operates at a slightly lower 600°C/610°C. Completion of both units more than doubled the power generated at the small peninsula site while lowering emissions levels to that of a natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant [sic].
Combined, the two larger new units emit 50% less SOx, 80% less NOx, 70% less particulate, and 17% less CO2 than the older subcritical units that were replaced.3
...The system provides such exceptional pollution control that Isogo is ranked the cleanest coal-fired power plant in the world in terms of emissions intensity.
  1. International Energy Agency (IEA). (2012). Technology roadmap:High-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power generation
  2. Williams, J. (2014). America’s best coal plants. Power Engineering, 118(7)
  3. Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. (2009). Replacement activities completed at Isogo Thermal. J-POWER Annual Report 2009