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India set to take up clean coal technologies in a big way

A recent article in India’s Economic Times (link below) highlights the drive by the Indian government to deploy clean coal technologies, according to Shusheel Kumar (pictured), the Secretary of the Coal Ministry. Shareholders will know Mr Kumar as the sponsor of the current review of our project by NITI Aayog.

The main objective is energy security. The secondary objective is affordability.

Energy security essentially comes down to the security of supply and reliability.

Security of supply entails developing domestic coal resources and reducing reliance on imports.

Reliability entails the development of robust mining operations and supply chains, which requires significant rail and storage networks (we previously highlighted the supply issues here).

Affordability entails targeting the lowest-cost resources first.

The article below zeros in on the current role of coal in India’s energy mix and its trajectory through to 2040.

Coal power generation in India:

  • Accounts for 73% of electricity production
  • 125 gigawatts capacity (2012)
  • 330-441 GW planned (2040)
  • Increased coal-fired capacity of between 260% and 352% by 2040

Coal represents 55% of India's primary energy supply (2015-16) and is expected to remain at 48-54% through to 2040, despite substantial planned increases in wind and solar.

Our take on this?

Firstly, let’s be clear. There’s no such thing as clean coal. But there is ‘cleaner’ coal.

The term ‘clean coal’ is a lay ‘catchall’ given to any technology that results in lower emissions than would otherwise be achieved from ‘traditional’ coal utilisation technologies.

Case in point; ‘subcritical’ coal-fired power stations operate at around 1100 degrees Celsius. New ultra-supercritical power stations, or high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) power stations, operate at higher pressures and temperatures. The result is fewer emissions per unit of electricity.

  • Sub-critical, at 550C and <3200psi is 33-37% efficient.
  • Supercritical, at ~560C and ~3600psi is 37-40% efficient.
  • Ultra-supercritical, at 700-720C and 5,300-5,600 psi, reach efficiencies of 44-46%.

What does this ‘efficiency’ measure mean?

Simply, it’s a measure of how much fuel is turned into usable energy. The rest of the energy is either used within the system to overcome inertia or lost as heat. Remember, fossil fuels contain stored potential energy within their chemistry. Converting that chemical energy into thermal, then into kinetic to produce electrons involves losses at each conversion point.

Higher efficiency means less coal is required to make the same amount of electricity, and therefore the emissions per unit of electricity are lower.

There are other distinctions when discussing types of emissions. There are the emissions that we can see and which affect air quality and health – particulate matter, sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx)s, and toxic compounds such as benzene, toluene, xylene and formaldehyde. Then there is CO2, the colourless, odourless gas that is harmless to our physiology at levels even 100 times the current atmospheric concentration.

Suffice to say, when fossil fuel is combusted, there will always be some exhaust products. The amount depends on the fuel composition and the efficiency of combustion. Methods to mitigate certain emissions have been long established. Fuel selection, such as low sulphur coal. Better engineered plant, reducing NOx emissions. Electrostatic precipitators to catch particulate matter.

The problem is CO2. The cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is expensive at an estimated USD78 per tonne of CO2 (Global CCS Institue).

There are no affordable post-combustion CO2 solutions.

The only way for black coal to lower its CO2 intensity is to burn it more efficiently in a HELE power station or add-on CCS. A lifecycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions shows a 20% reduction can be achieved by switching to ultra-supercritical HELE technology.

Conversely, due to its high moisture content, brown coal can't be used in a HELE power station unless it's dried first.

Our Coldry process can cost-effectively reduce the moisture content of brown coal, slashing its CO2 intensity by between 43% and 62% compared to traditional usage.

Coldry is a gateway enabler to lower CO2 intensity from electricity production and higher-value products through conversion to liquids, gas and chemicals.

The added benefit is Coldry’s synergy with our Matmor process, opening the way for the use of low-value brown coal in iron and steel production, supporting India’s national development objectives.

Read more below...

Coal India to take up clean coal technologies in a big way

By Debjoy Sengupta

KOLKATA: Coal IndiaBSE -1.73 % would be taking up clean coal technologies like coal to liquid, coal to poly-chemicals and coal to methanol in a big way, said coal secretary Susheel Kumar.

Gopal Singh, acting chairman at Coal India, said, “The Indian energy sector is on the cusp of transformation and coal-based power generation shall go up.”

SourceGopal Singh: Coal India to take up clean coal technologies in a big way - The Economic Times