EPA’s war on coal has eliminated the possibility of using coal for power generation. Its regulations on the amount of CO2 emissions allowed from a power plant barely permits the use of natural gas and precludes using the most advanced coal-fired power plants.
Ultra-supercritical (USC) coal-fired power plants are 40% more efficient than the plants built previously in the United States. These older coal-fired power plants had thermal efficiencies of 32% HHV, while USC plants can have thermal efficiencies of 46%, or more.
China is putting these new USC plants to good use, replacing older plants with USC power plants. USC generation in China is expected to rise tenfold by 2020 and by nearly thirtyfold by 2030.
Emissions from USC plants are reduced by 40% below emissions from older coal-fired power plants. Mercury emissions can be cut to meet mercury emission standards.
In fact, CO2 emissions are cut 40% and nearly achieve the lower levels of CO2 emitted by natural gas power plants … and barely miss meeting the levels required by the EPA of an annual average of 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions for every megawatt-hour (MWh) produced by the plant.
The manner in which the EPA established the standard for CO2 emissions clearly shows there was a premeditated effort to include natural gas power plants while excluding modern USC power plants.
The newest Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) boiler has tubes that wrap around the furnace, which provides for a more uniform heating of the water as it’s transformed into steam at very high pressures and temperatures. The B&W boiler is designed to allow cycling, which permits varying the load on the boiler.
This design is an important step forward and relies on advances in metallurgy that are continuing to be made. Turbine blades must also rely on these advances in metallurgy.
India is also pursuing USC power plants. Europe, with its fixation on cutting CO2 emissions 80% by 2050, is also building new USC plants.
It would appear as though the United States is the only country prohibiting USC power plants.
The use of coal will increase worldwide, largely as the result of the new USC designs.
The IEA predicts that coal will surpass oil as the top fuel in five years. Its report said that “The world will burn around 1.2 billion more tons of coal per year by 2017 compared to today – equivalent to the current coal consumption of Russia and the United States combined.”
The world benefits from increasing the availability of electricity, and coal is the least costly fuel available to nearly every country except the United States. Coal-fired power plants will play an important role in raising living standards in other countries … while increasing CO2 emissions, in spite of what the United States does.
It would require little effort by the EPA to increase the accepted standard for CO2 emissions to allow building USC power plants.
This would be good for Americans.
Read more of Donn’s columns at his blog, Power For USA.
Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia (Creative Commons)