Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coal fired powergen down but not out

According to Roman Portuzek, director of the Ministry of Industry & Trade’s Electrical Power Engineering Department, coal will continue to be a “necessary part” of the Czech Republic’s heat and power sector to at least 2050.

Speaking at the keynote address of the COAL-GEN Europe 2011 conference and exhibition, which kicked off today, Mr. Portuzek reaffirmed that coal would remain an important fuel source for the country.

This is despite plans to cut the country’s energy intensity by two-thirds, as well as emissions, especially nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxides (SOx) by 2050, primarily through an increase in its nuclear power base.

The Czech Republic, however, has a relatively unusual generation mix in that large-scale combined heat and power (CHP) plants represent a third of the country’s installed capacity and provide around 20 per cent of the electricity supply. The majority of these CHP plants are fuelled by coal.

It is also the third biggest electricity exporter in Europe, behind France and Germany, and Mr. Portuzek was keen to emphasize that it was important that it remained so.

Studies conducted by the Ministry of Industry & Trade clearly showed that is the CHP plant sector was reduced the Czech Republic would become an importer of electricity. Thus the country is likely to invest in high efficiency, coal fired CHP production.

Mr. Karel Krizek, director of Central Engineering at CEZ Group, echoed the sentiment that coal would continue to have an important role to play in generating power.

CEZ, which is a major utility in the Central and Eastern European region, currently has a 74 per cent share in the Czech power generation market and supplies 44 per cent of the electricity in the country.

As of 2009, 55 per cent of its generation assets were either black coal or lignite fired power plants, primarily powered by coal from its own mine.

However, Mr. Krizek confirmed that CEZ had plans to half its carbon emissions - from 0.63 tCO2/MWh in 2009 to 0.32 tCO2/MWh by 2025 - by replacing the majority of its black coal fired power plants with other fuels such as gas, renewable sand nuclear, and upgrading many of its existing lignite units with new high efficiency technology.

The third keynote speaker, Dr. Ira Jaroslav, director of Business Development of Skoda Power, now part of Doosan Power Systems, made it clear that “coal was here to stay” in Europe despite the impact of the recent economic downturn on new build coal.

He highlighted the changing market and acknowledged that it was essential that coal had to become cleaner and more efficient.

In the longer term he said carbon capture and storage (CCS) was key but still required greater clarity on legislation, and that in the short to medium-term improving the performance of existing plants was the right pathway to follow.

Dr. John Topper, managing director of the IEA Clean Coal Centre, completed the keynote line-up, giving a more global view of coal fired power generation and the approach to its decarbonisation.

Citing the IEA World Energy Outlook, published late last year, he said that in the period 2008-2035 emerging economies would dominate the growth in demand for all fuels, with the demand for coal in the OECD actually falling.

Conversely the coal demand in China would escalate – 600 GW of new capacity which exceeds the current combined capacity of the US, Europe and Japan.

He also highlighted the significant impact improving plant efficiency can have on reducing carbon emissions.

“It would be possible to achieve a 1.35-1.7 billion tonnes/annum of CO2 reduction by moving to current state-of-the-art pulversied coal plants. This represents 5 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions, which is highly significant.”

However, he acknowledged that deep cuts in carbon emissions would only be achieved with CCS. A point also made by Dr. Jaroslav.

He also highlighted China’s growing experience with CCS, especially in coal gasification, and said that greater international collaboration on R&D and technology transfer would be critical to moving CCS from demo to commercial-scale.

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