FINNEY COUNTY, KS - A unique combination
of high-tech combustion modifications and sophisticated
control systems will be tested on a Kansas coal-fired
power plant as part of the federal government's efforts
to show how new technology can reduce air emissions and
save costs for ratepayers.
The U.S. Department of Energy and Sunflower Electric
Power Corporation have signed an agreement to use the
utility's Holcomb Station power plant in Finney County,
KS, to field test an "integrated combustion optimization
system" - an array of state-of-the-art sensors,
controls, and clean-burning combustion modifications,
all linked by sophisticated "neural network" software.
The pollution reducing potential of the integrated
system is expected to rival other devices now being installed on other coal-burning power plants, but
overall costs are likely to be only half as much, a
significant benefit for ratepayers.
The $5.88 million project is part of the Energy
Department's Power Plant Improvement Initiative, a
program that provided federal matching funds for
projects that would demonstrate innovative ways to
reduce air emissions or boost the operating efficiencies
of the nation's coal-fired power plants. The Energy
Department, through its National Energy Technology
Laboratory, is providing $2.8 million for the 26-month
project. Sunflower is contributing the additional $3.08
Coal-fired power plants, such as the 360-megawatt
Holcomb Station, are the workhorses of the U.S. electric
power industry, currently supplying more than half of
the nation's electric power. Many of these plants are
facing more stringent environmental standards,
especially for air emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx).
The specific technology components to be added to the
plant include a separated overfire air (SOFA) system,
furnace sensors, coal flow measuring and control
devices, and neural network controls. If successful, the
"Integrated Combustion Optimization System" will reduce
emissions to 0.15 to 0.22 pounds of NOX per million Btus
and simultaneously increase power output by 7 megawatts
- all at less than half the cost of state-of-the-art NOX
Under the terms of the Energy Department's agreement
with Sunflower, revenue from sales of the additional
power output will be used to repay the federal
government's share of the project.
Individually, the components to be installed on Unit
1 of the Holcomb Station are all commercially available.
What has not been accomplished is a demonstration of the
enhanced pollution and cost reduction potential when
they are linked together, particularly for western
Powder River Basin coals.
The Holcomb Unit 1 is already equipped with
"first-generation" low-NOX burners, which reduce NOX
pollutants by 40 to 45 percent at relatively low cost.
With the application of SOFA, most of the necessary
incremental NOX pollutant reductions come from
combustion staging due to the overfire air. While
applicable to all coal types, the low sulfur and high
reactivity of Powder River Basin coals lend themselves
to the SOFA-based staging and inexpensive burner
modifications that are at the core of the pollution
reduction project goal.
Adding a mechanism to measure and control coal flow
and fineness, along with furnace sensors to define
spatial distributions and neural network controls will
further minimize the level of emissions at the plant and
optimize combustion efficiency.
Today, only selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
technology is capable of consistently achieving the most
stringent emission limits set by federal and state
standards - 0.15 pounds of NOX per million Btus. Rather
than reducing NOX in the combustion zone, SCR uses
chemical catalysts to scrub NOX pollutants from a power
plant's flue gas before it is expelled from the plant.
Consequently, SCR adds a complex and expensive chemical
plant to the power station.
The Integrated Combustion Optimization System, if it
proves successful, could provide a lower cost
alternative to SCR controls, ultimately reducing the
overall consumer cost of electricity. It could also help
reduce the duration of the plant outages necessary for
installing the system and improve overall electric
Sunflower has selected GE Energy and Environmental
Research Corp., a unit of GE Power Systems, to assist
with the project and provide the core technologies being
The Sunflower agreement is the fourth of six projects
signed under the DOE Office of Fossil Energy's Power
Plant Improvement Initiative. Authorized by Congress as
the precursor to
President Bush's Clean Coal Power
Initiative, the program is intended to demonstrate
technologies that boost the efficiencies of
currently-operating power plants - generating more
megawatts from the same amount of fuel - or that allow
currently-operating power plants to comply with
environmental standards at lower costs. The Sunflower
project will accomplish both objectives.