The International Energy Agency recently reported that after three years of increase, coal-based generation dropped 3% in 2019 as electricity demand growth slowed. However, “It remains the primary energy source for electricity generation worldwide…with a share of 36% due to its widespread use in Asian economies… Making the existing coal power plant fleet more flexible and efficient is a priority.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Although coal at U.S. power plants has cost less than natural gas, for coal to be competitive, its delivered cost must be at least 30% lower to make up for the differences in efficiency between a typical coal-fired plant and a typical natural gas-fired plant. These differences are even larger for more efficient natural gas-fired combined-cycle plants. Coal plants must also offset higher costs for emission control equipment and other operations.”
As a result of these factors, globally, the coal-fired power plant faces the increasing demands of cost saving, process optimization, and cleaner gas emission. The good news is that there is already technology that can help optimize raw material handling, analyze coal quality, monitor emissions and air quality, and assess the structural integrity of pipelines.
Here are some of the technologies that coal-fired power generation operators could invest in if they are to reduce costs and optimize their plants:
- Raw Material Handling: There is raw material handling equipment for each stage of the process, including belt scale systems to monitor the weight of goods received, tramp metal detectors to protect the crusher and other expensive equipment, and conveyor protection switches to stop the conveyor if any unexpected accident happens. There are also specialty process control instruments to ensure precise feeding of process materials, control inventory, and maintain product quality. Learn more about raw material handling equipment.
- Online Coal Quality Analysis: Online elemental coal analyzers and blending software measure the composition of coal in real-time and proactively address process variations to ensure more consistent coal blends. The latest analyzers use either Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation (PGNAA) or Pulsed Fast Thermal Neutron Activation (PFTNA) technology to help provide coal producers with accurate, reliable data to control coal blends and ensure on-spec batches. Learn more about online coal quality analysis products.
- Positive Material Identification: The structural integrity of pipelines and plant assets is key for safety. Material mix-ups in metal production can have profound effects on the final product, so today’s best practice is to analyze 100% of critical materials. Using handheld XRF and LIBS analyzers, operators can perform positive material identification (PMI) to analyze piping material and get results in minutes to ensure that no incorrect or out of specification metal alloys enter the manufacturing process. Learn more about handheld instruments for PMI.
- Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems: There are a variety of products help customers with regulatory compliance and process control. Some specialty Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) include Particulate Matter (PM) CEMS and Mercury (Hg) CEMS. These probes are installed in stack and transfer gas to PM and Hg analyzers in the shelter, helping customers to comply with local PM and Hg emission regulation and optimal process performance. Learn more about Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems.
- Air Quality Monitoring Systems: Air quality monitoring systems measure air quality, low and high levels of criteria pollutants, as well as other gases and toxins. These instruments help ensure ambient air quality complies with local environmental regulations (SOx, NOx, CO, Ozone, PM 2.5/ PM10). Learn more about ambient gas monitors.
You can even see how all these instruments fit into the basic workflow of a power generation plant. Visit our website and access the interactive app: Coal-fired Power Plant Interactive Workflow.