Vilification of coal

07/13/2010


Sunday morning I had a few minutes to look at the Chicago Tribune over the breakfast table. The headline on page 1 hit me: “Clean coal dream a costly nightmare.” I figured that they were talking about that FutureGen project that seems to be running by fits and starts, uses experimental technologies, and is ‘way over budget. But no, that’s not it. The article is about a far more conventional power plant being built in southern Illinois by Prairie State Energy.

The main complaint of the article is that this plant is going to be a financial drain on its customers and a huge polluter. You can hear the sound of the hands ringing.

Actually, the plant is pretty interesting if you know anything about generating technology. It’s a greenfield coal-fired plant with two units totaling 1,600 MW being built by Bechtel. (See a video about the construction.) It’s placed at the minehead, so there is no need to move coal by truck or rail. It comes from the mine directly to the plant by conveyor. This plant will have a four-stage pollution control system that uses proven techniques: selective catalytic reduction, dry ESP, wet limestone scrubber, and wet ESP. Acid-rain creating pollutants, mercury, and particulates will likely be cut by more than 95%. The only thing that will go out the stack will be carbon dioxide. Given its state-of-the-art technology and proximity to its fuel source, this plant will put out far less carbon dioxide per MW than many others in the eastern quarter of the country that are older and draw their coal all the way from Wyoming.

The Tribune spends much time discussing the point that construction is running over budget for various reasons. That may well be the case, and it wouldn’t be the first project where that has happened. It’s true that Prairie State’s customers will ultimately have to carry some of the overrun, but again, that sort of thing has happened before. It’s most important to consider these situations over the long term since this plant will probably still be running in 2050.

Between now and then, carbon could become an issue. If some sort of carbon taxing system goes into effect, coal-fired plants will have a disadvantage. But coal still accounts for almost 45% of U.S. electricity generation so nothing is going to change all that drastically any time soon. Prairie State will also have an advantage that this plant will be relatively cheap to operate in comparison to many other facilities.

A similarly-sized nuclear plant would be one possible alternative if you aren’t in a hurry (Startup in 2022?), or you could use wind turbines. Let’s see, creating 1,600 MW using wind turbines would require at least 500 turbines, and that assumes they’re running at full capacity all the time, which doesn’t happen. You can’t cover your base loading requirements with wind.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
System integration: Best practices and technologies to help; Virtualization virtues; Cyber security advice; Motor system efficiency, savings; Product exclusives; Road to Hannover
Collaborative robotics: How to improve safety, return on investment; Industrial Internet of Things, Industrie 4.0: World views; High-performance HMI, Information Integration: OPC and OMG
9 tips: How to integrate a servo system; Process control mathematical models; Serial network grounding; Engineers' Choice Awards; Learn from cyber security mistakes
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
PLCs, robots, and the quest for a single controller; how OEE is key to automation solutions.
Learn how Industry 4.0 adds supply chain efficiency, optimizes pricing, improves quality, and more.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors

(copy 5)

click me