Renew On Line (UK) 62

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 162 July-Aug 2006
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Energy Review EAC Review, FoE Scenarios

2. BWEA on offshore wind wind ups and downs

3. Wave & Tidal Power in Scotland and Wales

4. Reactions to the Budget...and the Climate Review

5. Greening London.. but not Devon

6. Energy Statistics RO grows

7. Coal to come back cleaner? Clean coal

8. Building Battles Building regs and codes

9. Policy moves. Tory greening, UKERC query

10. Stern Climate Views doom ahead?

11. Fuel Cells R&D slow progress

12. EU News Wind and biofuels grow

13. US News Wind battles, Bushes plan

14. World News Divisive Climate Pact?

15. Nuclear News US reprocessing

7. Coal to come back cleaner?

Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, has suggested that the coal from British mines should be used in new power stations to test ‘clean coal’ and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. ‘I would like to see one or two major developments in Britain using British coal plus clean coal technology’. The UK still gets around 33% of its electricity from coal (and actually more recently, since the price of gas went up), but most of this is imported, although there are opencast sites and some deep mines are still in production. Overseas the prospects for coal looks bright, with some analysts predicting that it could supply up to 40 % of global power, with China being the most obvious user. Wicks commented ‘Whatever the most fierce environmentalists may say and wish, the world is going to be burning lots of carbon, particularly loads and loads of coal, for 100, 200 years to come’. If that is not to lead to massive climate impacts, then there is a need for the rapid adoption of clean coal/CCS around the world- and the UK could be a major supplier of the technology. That includes basic acid gas scrubbers, plus advanced, more efficient, combustion system- notably supercritical stream boilers- which mean that you can get the same power with less fuel and less carbon emissions. There is also the biomass co-firing option, which reduces net carbon emissions since biomass burning is carbon neutral as long as more biomass is grown. But the big step is to go for carbon capture- separating out carbon dioxide from the gasses produced in a coal gasification stage of an Integrated Gassification Coal Combustion plant (‘IGCC’). Alternatively you can just use natural gas (methane), as BP are proposing to do with their new new plant in Scotland- which will store the resultant carbon dioxide in the depleted Miller field and produce hydrogen gas to run the second stage of a combined cycle system, which generates electricity. But gas prices may make this option less attractive than coal in future. That seems to what Mitsui Babcock believe- they are promoting IGCCC strongly. They have installed clean coal units in Germany and China and are now keen to push ahead with the more advanced IGCC/CCS technology, possibly using the UK as a test bed. According to a report in the Guardian (Feb 21st), Mitsui Babcock believes it would cost £10bn to convert all UK coal-fired stations to ultra-efficient plants capable of co-firing coal and biomass. To go the whole way with carbon capture and storage would cost a further £10bn. The government is keen to push ahead- with an eye to sales of UK technology to China, and has backed a demonstration programme for low emissions coal fired plant in China.

Not enough UK coal?

Back in the UK, one issue is- where would the coal come from? As the Guardian noted ‘The main local provider, UK Coal, ran up first-half losses of £30.5m and is struggling to make many of its mines pay despite a big increase in the global price of coal. The collieries are hobbled by the depths of the reserves underground and opposition to new surface mines from local residents. The current switch from gas to coal by local power stations has mainly benefited mines in South Africa, Australia and Russia. The only new investment going into British coal handling is at ports. While UK Coal recently closed Selby, once the biggest coal complex in Europe, in 2004, Associated British Ports is spending £65m- its biggest single investment ever- at Immingham about 50 miles away.’
It added ‘Britain once led the world in ‘clean coal technology’, designed to minimise pollution. In the 1960s the government looked at clean coal, with an experimental facility opening at Grimethorpe colliery, Barnsley, in 1975. The plant was funded by more than 20 countries but was closed after the 1984-85 miners’ strike and subsequent privatisation of the industry by the Thatcher government. At the start of the strike there were 170 working pits; now there are fewer than 10.’
Matsui Babcock have produced a report for the UK Energy Review, which talks up the merits of clean coal/CCS. It claims that it would be cheaper than gas CCGT/CSS and cheaper than renewables like wind. There are some similarities with the FoE scenarios (see earlier), in the stress on coal fired IGCCC with carbon capture, but FoE puts more stress on renewables and CHP, and reject nuclear. CCS may be all the rage, and it has its attractions, but it’s worth remembering that it will not capture 100% of the CO2- maybe 80%- and some may also escape once stored.We’ll review the Matsui Babcock report in Renew 163. Meanwhile see:,
Clean coal RWE npower has announced plans for a pioneering clean-coal power plant with CCS at Tilbury on the Thames estuary, which should open in 2016. Eon, the German owner of Powergen, is thinking about a 450MW plant with CCS in Lincolnshire and is building a pilot carbon capture plant at its technology division in Nottinghamshire. But its costly: up to £800m for the 1 GW Tilbury plant and £690m for RWE’s IGCC prototype plant in Germany

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