The Truth about Coal

Coal-fired power plants have been blackballed by environmentalists and those who want to cut CO2 emissions.

But does coal deserve a black eye?

Historically, emissions of SOx, NOx, particulates and Hg from coal-fired power plants have been greater than from natural gas power plants.

And, of course, nuclear doesn’t emit any of these pollutants.

In addition, the fleet of traditional coal-fired power plants has a thermal efficiency of only 32%HHV.

So, is there anything new that changes the equation for coal?

Fortunately the answer is yes.

New supercritical and ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants are now available due to advances in metallurgy.

These coal-fired power plants operate at very high temperatures and pressures and have thermal efficiencies of between 38% and over 43%HHV. They use 25% to 35% less coal, respectively.

In addition, properly equipped supercritical and ultra-supercritical units have lower emissions. Emissions of SOx are cut by over 95%, NOx by over 85%, particulates by over 98%, while 90% of Hg is removed.

While not as clean as nuclear, supercritical and ultra-supercritical coal power plants earn the sobriquet of “clean coal”.

I said fortunately because we have over one hundred, and possibly 200, year’s supply of inexpensive coal that makes the United States energy independent in so far as electricity is concerned.

AEP is building the first ultra-supercritical plant in the United States in Arkansas. Several supercritical plants are also currently being built in the U.S.

The United States lags behind Europe and Asia. Over 85% of new capacity in Europe and Asia has used this technology.

Regulators, judges and environmentalists shouldn’t stand in the way of ultra-supercritical and supercritical coal-fired power plants. The United States needs these power plants if it is to remain energy independent in so far as electricity is concerned – with costs for electricity that low- and middle-income people can afford.

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