Washington, D.C. - A new training center developed to teach personnel how to operate clean integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants is now up and running with help from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and Research (AVESTAR™) center consists of two equivalent facilities—one at the Office of Fossil
Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the other at West Virginia University’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy. Established as part of DOE’s initiative to advance new clean coal technology for power generation, the goal of the facility is to train the workforce needed to operate future IGCC plants.
Unlike conventional coal-fired power plants, IGCC plants do not burn coal directly. Instead, these advanced power plants use heat, pressure, and steam to convert coal to synthesis gas (syngas), which is mainly hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syngas is then cleaned to remove impurities and sent to a gas turbine where it undergoes combustion to produce electricity. The hot exhaust gas from the gas turbine is used to generate steam, which is then fed to a steam turbine to produce additional electricity.
Compared to traditional power plants, IGCC offers many advantages, including increased power plant efficiency, resulting in lower-cost electricity for consumers. Because gasification occurs at higher temperature and pressure, with limited oxygen, environmental contaminants are easier to remove from the flue gas stream. The system also makes it possible to concentrate carbon dioxide (CO2), providing for more efficient removal which will be important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Energy experts predict that this process represents the future of clean-coal technology.
Currently, only a handful of coal gasification electric power plants are commercially operational worldwide, but additional facilities in the planning or construction stage. By providing a comprehensive IGCC operator training system, the AVESTAR center will be instrumental in providing the training required to develop a workforce well-prepared to operate and control these new power plants. With additional support from the NETL-Regional University Alliance, the AVESTAR center will be used to educate engineering students and researchers by providing hands-on "learning by operating" experience. In addition to training and education, the center will offer a variety of unique collaborative research and development opportunities.
NETL plans to continue building the AVESTAR portfolio of dynamic simulators, immersive training systems, and advanced research capabilities to satisfy industry’s growing need for training and experience with the operation and control of high-efficiency, near-zero-emission energy plants.
Most of the energy consumed in the United States and abroad comes from coal, petroleum, and natural gas. These fossil fuels account for approximately 80 percent of national and international energy production, and coal-fired power plants account for more than half of the electricity generated in the United States. With increasing global energy demands, coal is expected to continue to play a dominant role in meeting future energy needs.