The future

New opportunities in electricity production

uhli_horici.jpgIn the present, coal still represents the most significant source of electricity in the world; with dwindling reserves of oil and gas its share is likely to be even higher. By all accounts, coal will become the most important raw material of the 21st century in terms of energy. Therefore, attention is being paid to development of more efficient and cleaner methods of coal combustion and its conversion to electricity. The European Union broadly supports development of new methods of power utilization of coal.


Currently, the following methods appear promising:

 

Powder combustion

The development of this technology was instigated by Clean Coal Technology projects supported by the American Department of Energy. It is based on improved systems of transport of fuel and air to the flame and is suitable in particular for coal with lower ash content and higher calorific value. In the United States there are currently approximately 90 technology facilities with powder combustion of coal in operation, providing total energy output of 27 000 MW. There are 7 such facilities currently in construction in Germany. The advent of such facilities based on powder combustion in Europe is expected in connection with the end of the lives of standard coal-burning plants between 2015 and 2020.

 

Fluidized combustion

The so-called combustion in fluid beds enhances efficiency and reduces the volume of emissions. Several such sources are in operation in the Czech Republic as well.

 

Gasification

Utilization of coal gasification processes in electricity production enables even higher efficiency and lower production of emissions to be reached than in case of fluidized combustion. The efficiency of the most up-to-date units is between 43 and 45 percent. A South African refinery company called SASOL which besides electricity, also produces engine fuels from coal at the same time.

Gasification is also used in experiments concerning joint conversion of coal, biomass and waste plastics to electricity and fuels.

Attractions