Globally, there is a growing concern about fuel diversity and security of supply, particularly with regard to oil and natural gas. For the UK, supplies are very dependent on imports, prices are uncertain, while some suppliers show a willingness to use their oil and gas to influence political decisions. At the same time, global demand for oil has been increasing significantly due to the economic development of China and India while oil exploration has failed to keep up with production. Consequently, the use of coal, which is available from a much wider range of sources and has greater price stability than oil and gas, is increasingly attractive. On a global basis, coal use is increasing rapidly, and by 2030 may well reach a level of more than 4,500 Mtoe, corresponding to close to a doubling of current levels. The main market will be in the developing countries, especially China and India, while OECD use will decline. At the same time, tightening regulations will require better solutions for achieving environmental compliance, for which coal has a number of key issues to address.
Most of the coal used for combustion applications will be in the power generation sector, while in developing economies there is also likely to be significant use for cement production. The key research challenges are to develop and deploy methods by which coal can be used cleanly, efficiently, and in a sustainable way. These include improvements to existing coal utilisation technologies, particularly to improve fuel and operational flexibility together with high availability, while reducing energy use through higher efficiencies, which for power plants will include the introduction of more advanced steam cycles and improved systems integration. There is an increasing need to ensure improved emissions control, with the emphasis on achieving ever-lower emissions of particulates, SO2 and NOx while also introducing control of trace species, particularly mercury.
Alongside this, a key challenge is the integration of techniques that can capture CO2 and store it in secure geological formations, thereby resulting in near zero emissions of CO2 (the development of which is covered elsewhere in this research atlas). From a coal combustion perspective, the need is to achieve such integration while minimising any adverse impact on power plant efficiency, performance of existing emissions control systems, operational flexibility and availability.
With regard to both the UK home market and the major global opportunities for new and replacement coal fired power plant, the main technologies of industrial interest are Advanced Supercritical Pulverised Coal (PC) Boiler /Steam Turbine systems in the 600-1000 MWe range and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) systems at a scale of about 500 MWe. The continuing advancement of these existing clean coal technology (CCT) variants is required together with an associated and major effort to ensure that the related near-zero emission techniques can be developed and established on an attractive economic basis. Alongside this is the need to further improve the efficiency performance of large gas and steam turbines,which have wider applications than just coal-fired plant. Thus the former will be needed both for use in natural gas fired combined cycle plant and advanced coal based IGCC systems, with particular reference to the future use of coal as a transitional fuel for the establishment of hydrogen as an energy vector. Similarly, advanced steam turbines will be required both for combustion and gasification power plant applications.
At a smaller scale, there is growing interest in coal bed methane production and utilisation. The methane can be recovered from both operational and abandoned mines and the requirement is to burn such gas effectively, which is often of low calorific value. There is also potential to extract methane from coal seams where mining has yet (or is unlikely ever) to take place for which issues are covered elsewhere in this atlas. This includes enhanced recovery methods, where CO2 or N2 is injected into the coal, which provides apossible link to CO2 storage provided that the coal seam in which CO2 might be injected will never be mined. While economic quantities of methane can be produced, there is a need to improve utilisation options, for example, via energy recovery from small scale power generation schemes through better utilization of the waste heat. At the same time, the need to establish water disposal options, which are environmentally acceptable and yet economically feasible, is akey requirement.
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Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
Within the UK, coal use is primarily for power generation, with most of the remainder used in the steel industry and to a lesser extent in the cement production sector. Over the past two decades, there has been a significant reduction of coal use within the power sector. Within what is becoming a more diversified UK energy mix, the indications are that its future use will at best be at current levels, provided that lower cost, higher efficiency, coal fired plant with good environmentalperformance and near zero CO2 emissions can be established.
Traditionally, the UK has been recognised as a global leader in coal research and development. While that position has fallen away to an extent in recent years, there remains a strong research capability in coal combustion. There is a select group of UK universities that continues to offer high quality research expertise and this readily complements the capabilities within the UK power generating companies,the power sector equipment manufacturers, together with industrial non-power equipment suppliers and end users. These UK organisations continue to play a significant role in collaborative R&D initiatives, both within the European context, as noted in Section 8, and with the USA.
From a market perspective, although it is very competitive, the global clean coal power generation opportunities are very significant. This covers the provision of individual components through to major engineering and procurement contracts. In many cases such opportunities are developed through collaborative ventures, in which universities can have a significant role to play. As such, the UK can play a major part in the global introduction of clean coal power generation technology and, in due course, near zero emissions coal based technology.
Although small compared to large scale coal based power generation, there is an increasing focus on coal bed methane (CBM) utilisation,which is the extraction of methane that is still locked into the vast reserves of coal and coal measures strata that remain un-worked in Great Britain. This involves directly drilling into the strata to release the methane, without detrimentally affecting the physical properties of the coal. To date, there has been very limited commercial production of CBM in the UK and the output is used to generate electricity for local use rather than being fed into the national gas distribution network. However, the use of directional drilling techniques to give greater process control may mean that CBM exploitation could become an economically viable prospect. A number of new developments have been initiated and, as of September 2010, the Coal Authority had granted permission at 13 sites in Great Britain for companies to extract methane from un-mined coal seams. While these were all for pilot drilling projects, there is considerable scope to increase the scale of operations and several of the licensees have declared plans to expand operations in due course.
From a global perspective, there is considerable interest in CBM, including many countries in Asia, and several UK companies are able to offer technology and consulting expertise.
Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
Table 3.1: Research Funding | Table 3.2: Key Research Providers
Table 3.1: Research Funding
Table 3.2: Key Research Providers
Table 4.1: Research Funding Table 4.2: Key Research Providers
There is a limited number of organisations that actively undertake applied coal combustion research and development in the UK (as opposed to CCS). These comprise one of the power generation companies that arose from the privatisation of the electricity supply industry and several power sector equipment developers. There are also some non-power sector companies that undertake some R&D that is focussed exclusively on the continued operation of their own equipment within the UK.
The utility, E.ON UK, undertakes applied research to remain an informed end user within the international marketplace, which can assist it both to remain competitive in its existing activities and to aid any assessments on new activities worldwide. This includes the need to address issues for existing plant as well as those associated with the introduction of improved variants and alternative coal fired technologies. As such, its prime interests cover the need:
In accordance with UK Government policy, new plant will need to demonstrate the full CCS chain at commercial scale, with wider scale deployment of CCS expected tobe possible from 2020 and plants with demonstrations expected to retrofit CCS to full capacity by 2025. Consequently, any new plant must meet this CCS requirement while ensuring that the overall adverse impact on cycle efficiency can be minimised and that the conventional environmental performance can be maintained. Several concepts have been shortlisted within the DECC UK full chain CCS demonstration competition. These include:
The equipment developers and manufacturers include Alstom Power (AP) and Doosan Babcock (DB). Both are part of international companies, Alstom and Doosan Power Systems respectively, whose interests span all aspects of the coal fired power generation market. From a UK perspective, AP is mostly focussed on the maintenance, refurbishment and operation of many of the country’s existing coal and gas power plants, while its service business includes steam turbine retrofits, and boiler retrofitting, including biomass co-firing, NOx reduction, performance improvement and fuel flexibility. The DB core business is the design, supply and construction of advanced steam generation technology for the power industry, from turnkey steam power-plant projects to boilers and, via a sister company, steam turbines. In both cases, their specific interests are in ensuring that they have CCT and CCS products available to meet current and future market needs on a competitive basis. Consequently, their R&D portfolios include the need to achieve efficiency and operational flexibility improvements for their technologies in the short and medium term followed by the adaptation of those technologies and/or the development of alternative technologies for use with CO2 capture systems in the medium to longer term. Thus, within such a framework, technologies are needed for new power plant, for replacement power plant and for retrofitting of existing plant, and they must be available for both base load and load-following operation, while meeting all environmental standards, and being proven for the full range of coal types and co-firing applications appropriate to the global market prospects.
Outside of the power sector, the use of coal combustion for other industrial processes includes the cement sector, the raising of process steam and somesmaller applications such as drying of agricultural products for subsequent processing. Of these, cement manufacture is a significant coal consuming activity in the UK. This process releases large quantities of CO2, both from the burning of coal and from the calcination of limestone. Since about one tonne of coal is used for each 3.5 tonnes of cement produced, the partial replacement of coal with alternative fuels such as various waste materials has been actively pursued. Thecement companies tend to address their own R,D&D needs individually, which include maximising combustion efficiency, reducing emissions, and understanding how the use of coal-coal and coal /waste blends will impact on process performance.
Table 4.1: Research Funding
Table 4.2: Key Research Providers
Currently, there are no active clean coal technology-combustion related-demonstration programmes in the UK. DECC is continuing to support its competition to establish a demonstration of near zero emissions coal fired power generation. Although the first stage of this competition did not proceed beyond the FEED studies, DECC has indicated that opportunities remain for three alternative CCS demonstrations. For coal bed methane utilisation, while demonstration funding sources are not currently available, the UK Coal Authority has given permission for several industrial scale pilot projects, as set out below, which will include utilisation of the methane so produced.
Table 6.1: Research Facilities and Assets
In recognition of the previous decline of the coal sector in the UK, there are no major independent R&D/testing/certification facilities remaining. The facilities that are available are owned by several of the end users and equipment developers referred to in the previous sections, as set out in the table.
Table 6.1: Research Facilities and Assets
Table 7.1: Networks
There are three networking arrangements relevant to coal combustion R&D in the UK. The Coal Research Forum acts to promote informal networking with the benefit of developing collaborative relationships between members having similar interests. The British Flame Research Committee is a professional association providing a bridge between industry and academia in the field of industrial combustion. The Energy Generation and Supply Knowledge Transfer Network (EG&S KTN) comprises business, technology, academic and policy stakeholders for strategic and effective knowledge exchange to advance the UK EG&S sector.
Table 7.1: Networks
Table 8.1: EU Framework Programmes
UK industry and universities are involved in various clean coal technology R&D activities with financial support from the EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the Research Programme of the Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS). The FP7 Programme on clean coal technologies covers two areas:
Alongside FP7, the complementary research programme under the RFCS provides funds for research projects on coal combustion, which can include research and demonstration projects, accompanying measures, as well as support and preparatory actions related to coal and steel. The number of new projects supported each year varies and depends on the total budget available as well as on the budget claimed by each individual project. Thus if a high cost project is rated highly and is funded, its inclusionmeans that the level of funding for additional projects is reduced.
Projects that involve UK organisations and either remain active or will commence in early 2013 are listed below, with those supported by FP7 being listed before those funded by the RFCS. In each case, contracts have been signed with the Commission to implement the R&D programme and information is in the public domain. These include some generic materials development projects that will have application for advanced coal power plants.
Table 8.1: EU Framework Programmes
Table 9.1: International Activities
The UK participates in three IEA Implementing Agreements broadly linked to coal combustion and conversion, and a fourth that focuses on greenhouse gas issues, in which coal is a significant factor.
Table 9.1: International Activities