PITTSBURGH, PA - With President Bush's National Energy
Policy calling for a new commitment to clean coal innovations, the Department
of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory has selected five new
research projects that, if successful, could make tomorrow's coal plants
cleaner and more efficient.
Four of the projects focus on high-tech ways to improve the environmental
performance and fuel efficiencies of coal-burning power plants. The fifth
project will undertake a novel, little-tried approach to reducing carbon
dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is one of the heat-trapping gases that
can cause the greenhouse effect.
The five projects total about $5 million with the Energy Department providing
approximately $3.5 million. They were selected in a nationwide competition
for fresh ideas on ways to use the nation's abundant coal reserves while
meeting environmental requirements. Coal currently supplies more than
half of the electricity consumed in the United States.
In the Power Systems Advanced Research area of interest, the
department will negotiate contracts with:
Sensor Research & Development Corp., Orono,
ME, which will develop an ultra-sensitive continuous emissions monitor
that is 10,000 times more sensitive in detecting mercury than today's
monitors. Such a system could detect and help control trace amounts
of mercury from coal plants regardless of whether the mercury is emitted
as a gas or a vapor. Project cost: $1.279 million; proposed DOE award:
$990,765; participant share: $288,309; project duration: 36 months.
Iowa State University of Science and Technology,
Ames, IA, which will develop a microwave-based monitor that can analyze
the chemical makeup of fly ash emitted from coal-fired power plants
while the plant is operating. The carbon-in-ash monitor will make
use of the "microwave-excited photoacoustic" effect developed
by the University for analyzing powders. The project is a collaboration
between Iowa State and Energy Systems Associates, a company interested
in integrating the carbon monitor into power plant instrumentation
systems. If the development effort is successful, plant operators
would be able to determine the amount of unburned carbon that is contained
in the ash, a key indicator of the plant's combustion efficiency.
Project cost: $509,473; proposed DOE award: $405,000; participant
share: $104,473; project duration: 36 months.
In the area of Combustion Systems, the department has selected:
ALSTOM Power Inc., Windsor, CT, which will build
and evaluate a new type of coal furnace known as a "circulating
moving bed combustor." This advanced combustor could be as much
as 30 percent cheaper and 60 percent more efficient than the conventional
pulverized coal and fluidized-bed boilers now on the market. A key
element of the new combustion furnace will be a heat exchanger that
preheats the steam or air before it enters the combustor. The preheating
is expected to enhance the efficiency with which the heat of the burning
fuel is transferred to the steam or air. In an actual operating plant,
the steam or air would be used to spin a turbine to generate electric
power. The preheating stage also is expected to improve flexibility
in operating the combustor. A 3-megawatt pilot-scale circulating moving
bed combustor will be constructed and evaluated and readied for field-testing.
The University of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology are assisting ALSTOM Power. Project cost: $2.485 million;
proposed DOE award: $1.5 million; participant share: $985,468; project
duration: 24 months.
ALSTOM Power Inc., Windsor, CT, for a second project
which will evaluate the feasibility and economics of a dozen advanced
power plant concepts based on three different types of coal combustors:
pulverized coal, circulating fluidized-bed, and circulating moving
bed. The goal is to make future coal plants that use these combustors
up to 50 percent efficient - that is, 50 percent of the energy value
of the fuel entering the plant is converted to electricity. The average
coal plant today is about 35 percent efficient. The project will assess
steam cycles, plant performance, boiler design and the economics of
total plants. American Electric Power, an Ohio-based utility, will
participate. Project cost: $764,362; proposed DOE award: $577,824;
participant share: $186,538; project duration: 24 months.
In the area of Carbon Sequestration, the capture and long-term
storage of carbon gases that can contribute to global climate change concerns,
the department picked:
SRI International, Menlo Park, CA, which proposes
to investigate two concepts for converting carbon dioxide released
from coal-burning plants back into fuel. In one approach, researchers
will investigate a novel process that uses solar energy in a photochemical
reaction along with common iron minerals and water to convert carbon
dioxide into methanol and other products. In a second approach, SRI
scientists will study ways to use heat to convert carbon dioxide into
fuel-grade chemicals also using iron-containing minerals. Project
cost: $63,000; proposed DOE award: $50,000; participant share: $13,000;
project duration: 12 months.