Volume 4 Issue 2

Volume 4 Issue 2

From the Editor

The World Is Changing With Smart Technologies

By Li Wenhua, Cornerstone

Wenhua HeadshotThe technology that surrounds us is getting smarter—smart cell phones, smart grids, smart transportation, just to name a few. In fact, smart technologies are changing and shaping our lives in ways of which we are often not aware, as they increasingly become part of the infrastructure impacting day-to-day life.

Cover Story

Digital, Interconnected Power Plants to Improve Efficiency and Reduce Emissions

By Jim Sutton and Peter Spinney, GE Power Boiler Services

Sutton Photo 1Countries around the world face a tremendous challenge in providing ample clean water, sustainable food supplies, and jobs to their citizens, while protecting the environment. Central to this challenge is managing and improving the power production infrastructure. Today, and for the foreseeable future, coal-fired power plants play a pivotal role by providing low-cost electricity to much of the world. Natural gas and renewables are growing in importance and are changing the ways in which traditional power plants operate. The rate of change in the electricity production business is unprecedented and is creating new opportunities for digital, interconnected, more intelligent power plants that are better able to meet these new requirements.


Developing Conventional and Alternative Energy in China

By Zuo Qianming, Cinda Securities Co., Ltd.

Zuo Photo 1Energy is the foundation of China’s economy; thus, it impacts every facet of national, economic, and social development. China’s economy is entering a period of new economic growth and energy demand after a downturn. There are numerous perspectives on the best pathway to develop various sources of energy, especially on how best to increase alternative energy sources instead of fossil fuel-based energy. During China’s energy transition, it is important that various energy strategies be thoroughly considered.

The Essential Role of Coal in Past and Future Economic Growth

By Roger Bezdek, Management Information Services, Inc.

Bezdek 5The recently published book The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by Dr. Robert Gordon, has taken the policy establishment in Washington, D.C., by storm. An eminent economist at Northwestern University outside of Chicago, Gordon’s thesis is that the incredible technological innovations of the period 1870–1920 were a “one time in history” series of events that cannot be replicated. Innovations such as electricity, telephones, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, radio, sanitation, and refrigeration transformed the U.S. and the world. They were responsible for the extraordinary growth in GDP and incomes in the U.S. and globally over the past 150 years—especially the “golden period” of 1945–1970. According to Gordon, no other period in history has brought similar comparable progress, or is likely to again.

Energy Policy

Juggling Development Objectives and the Role for Coal After the Paris Agreement

By Milagros Miranda R., World Coal Association

As of 2015 the world has a new global framework for sustainable development, supported by these four pillars: the Paris Agreement on climate change, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Finance for Development (AAAA). There are crucial and supportive links between these as the new framework calls for a holistic and integrated approach to guide actions toward achieving sustainable development.

Policy Parity for CCS Would Move the U.S. Closer to Its Climate Goals

By Janet Gellici, National Coal Council

Gellici Photo 3The most impactful action the U.S. can employ to reduce CO2 emissions is to incentivize the rapid deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Unfortunately, to date U.S. federal and state policies have severely tilted the energy playing field. Existing incentives for CCS are simply too small to bridge the gap between the cost and the risk of promising, but immature, CCS technologies vis-à-vis other low-emissions technology options. While the U.S. Department of Energy has stewarded a successful research and development program to spur early development of CCS technologies, insufficient overall support has hindered commercial deployment.

Strategic Analysis

A New Platform to Estimate Mercury Emissions

By Stephen Niksa, Niksa Energy Associates LLC

Niksa Photo 2The U.S. utility industry has already installed mercury (Hg) emissions controls at hundreds of coal-fired power plants to meet the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) that went into effect in spring 2016. Meanwhile, utility operators in the developing world are focusing on recent or impending regulations on particulates, SOX, and, perhaps, NOX. This is unfortunate because the global distribution of anthropogenic Hg emissions shows that the strongest sources of this air toxin coincide with a heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation. The situation is actually more complex because, taken together, artisanal and small-scale gold mining and coal combustion account for 60% of all anthropogenic Hg emissions, with gold mining’s contribution being about 50% greater than that of coal combustion. Whereas Hg control technologies are already being applied to power plants in developed countries, they will also need to be applied in developing countries to effectively reduce global emissions.

India’s Dash for Coal Loses Pace

By Jeremy Bowden, Cornerstone

Bowden Photo 1India has huge potential for growth in energy demand. It hosts one sixth of the world’s population and boasts the third-largest economy in purchasing power parity terms, but currently accounts for only 6% of global energy use, while 20% of the population—240 million people—still lack access to electricity. The World Bank suggests India’s GDP will grow by 7.9% in 2016, more than twice the global average. This growth, combined with modernization, urbanization, and government policies to assist those affected by energy poverty, are all expected to help drive electricity-sector growth, which has averaged 6.34% since 2009.

Coal and Clean Coal Technologies in Turkey

By Mücella Ersoy, Turkish Coal Enterprises

Ersoy Photo 1Coal is Turkey’s most important domestic energy resource. Although the country has large reserves of low-grade lignite and some hard coal resources, its oil and natural gas resources are quite limited. In recent decades Turkey has relied less and less on its domestic resources, leading to concerns about the country’s energy security.

Technology Frontiers

Powers of Perception: The State of the Art and Future of Sensors in Coal Power Plants

By Toby Lockwood, IEA Clean Coal Centre

Lockwood1Coal plant operators are increasingly constrained by a wide range of conflicting objectives, as they seek to maximize efficiency, profit, availability, and plant lifetime, while minimizing emissions and water consumption. The best set of operational parameters required to satisfy these demands can also be subject to constant change, as growing grid-connected capacities of intermittent wind and solar power oblige thermal power stations to ramp their output, and economic and environmental incentives encourage switching of coal type or biomass co-firing. To face these challenges, automation and more intelligent control systems able to optimize plant operation faster and more effectively than human operators are in increasing use; yet such systems rely on sensors to provide accurate data from the processes they control. Whereas in the past much of the operational data available to coal-fired power plant operators derived from imperfect, periodic measurements used to set long-term operating parameters, advances in sensor technologies over the last decade are now giving control systems access to a continuous stream of real-time data from previously inaccessible regions of the plant. This allows for human operators or the automated control system to take action based on considerably more information. As well, online sensors can also play an important role in monitoring the condition and performance of plant components and identifying when maintenance is required. This is particularly important given the unfamiliar and challenging operating regimes associated with frequent load following or non-design fuels.

Using Automation to Increase Mining Safety and Productivity

By Hua Guo, CSIRO

Guo 1Improving longwall mining safety, and with it productivity, is a priority for Australia’s leading applied research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). CSIRO’s Coal Mining Research Program, based at the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies, is made up of some 70 specialists who work with industry to improve ground stability and mine gas and fire control, and to develop advanced technologies that enhance workplace safety and productivity.

Advances in Pressurized Oxy-Combustion for Carbon Capture

By Richard L. Axelbaum, Benjamin Kumfer, Washington University in St. Louis
Xuebin Wang, Xi’an Jiaotong University

Axelbaum 1Coal provides enormous benefits to society and continues to be a major energy source for power generation because of its large reserves, ease of transportation and storage, and low price. Coal-fired power generation also is one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions. One promising technology for CO2 mitigation is oxy-combustion. However, first-generation oxy-combustion technologies, which operate under atmospheric pressure, suffer from a significant penalty in net generating efficiency—over 10 percentage points—primarily due to the auxiliary energy consumption from the air separation unit (ASU), flue gas recirculation (FGR), and gas processing unit (GPU). A promising new technology is pressurized oxy-combustion (POC), which can increase the plant efficiency by recovering the latent heat in the flue gas moisture and coupling it back into the steam cycle. An advanced POC technology is currently being developed at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), Missouri, U.S.A. This technology can achieve an increase of more than six percentage points in net generating efficiency over the first-generation oxy-combustion process and is paving the way for low-cost carbon capture.

Doing the Right Work at the Right Time in the Power Plant of Tomorrow

By Steven Seachman, Electric Power Research Institute

Seachman Photo 4Cisco estimates 21 billion devices will connect to the Internet by 2018 (three times the world population and up from 14 billion in 2013). This number will include sensors and other devices that aid in the supply and use of electricity. The proliferation of these sensors, the data they collect, and sophisticated new technologies that enable transformational applications of that data will profoundly change society, including the way we generate, distribute, and use electricity.

Global News

GlobalNewsPhotoCovering global business changes, publications, and meetings

The content in Cornerstone does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Coal Association or its members.
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