18.4 INTERNATIONAL

18.4 INTERNATIONAL

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INTERNATIONAL
International Perspectives on Brown Coal R&D
- CZECH REPUBLIC -





European perspective on brown coal – the Czech Republic
By Dr Stephen Mills, Senior Consultant, IEA Clean Coal Centre, London


Coal is important to the Czech economy as it forms the country’s only significant indigenous energy resource. Total confirmed resources remaining in place are around 16.3Gt of bituminous coal and 8.9Gt of brown coal. Of this, under current mining limits, only 169Mt of hard coal and 862Mt of brown coal can be mined, although this situation looks set to change.

Under legislation introduced in 1991, mining was restricted to certain geographical areas. However, in 2016, in a move welcomed by the brown coal sector, the Czech authorities decided to relax these limits. This will now make a further 120Mt/y of brown coal available at very competitive prices. Decisions on several other high quality deposits are awaited. Brown coal makes a large contribution in meeting primary energy demand. However, nearly all of the Republic’s oil and natural gas is imported, and the greater, more efficient use of brown coal has been identified up as an important component in future energy supply.

For many decades, brown coal has been the most important primary energy source, in particular for electricity generation. However, in recent years, its share amongst primary sources has been decreasing, falling from 36.6% in 2000 to 28.9% in 2013. This has been due in part to the exhaustion of some reserves and a general decline in overall quality. However, it still accounts for >40% of gross electricity production and is also used widely for heating in large scale district heating schemes. Many power plants are based on conventional pulverised coal combustion technology. These have a total installed capacity of ~10.8GW and generate more than half of the country’s electricity. In recent years, a number of the larger stations have been renovated in order to increase their efficiency and lifetime and reduce their environmental footprint. At around 6.5GW, ČEZ is the largest individual coal-based generator and the country’s biggest coal consumer.

Aerial photo of the Vresova IGCC plant, courtesy of SUAS

Alongside pulverised coal power stations, fluidized bed combustion (FBC) technology has also been embraced, with eight plants based on circulating FBC now in operation, mainly firing brown coal. The Czech Republic also hosts an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant at Vresova. This comprises two 200MW gas turbines fired on syngas produced by 26 fixed bed gasifiers fueled with brown coal supplied by Sokolovská Uhelná (SUAS).

For some time, production and consumption of brown coal has fallen steadily. However, in the past few years, annual consumption has stabilised at ~39Mt. The main brown coal deposit and the most important mining area is the 1400km2 Northern Bohemian Brown Coal Basin, where coal seams are generally between 15 and 30 metres thick. The bulk of production comes from opencast sites although there is also a single deep mine producing brown coal. Most production passes through preparation plants where it is graded and pulverised, producing single purpose products for household and commercial heating, and centralised heating facilities. Industrial heating blends are also produced and supplied to various power and cogeneration plants.


R&D Activities

Czech energy policy covering the period up to 2040 is focused mainly on security of energy supplies, competitiveness of the energy sector, and sustainable development. R&D to support these aims is viewed as crucial and is being aided in a number of ways that include state support via National Research Programmes. These have provided support for topics such as ‘Energy and non-energy uses of coal and carbonaceous materials’. Financial aid also comes from European resources and is administered by a number of mostly national institutions that include the Czech Science Foundation, Technology Agency, and a number of ministries. Support has come from European Union Framework Programmes as well as the European Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS). Various Czech organisations have contributed to a number of such major multi-partner projects.

Founded in 1953, the main focus for Czech R&D activities remains the Brown Coal Research Institute (VUHU - Výzkumný ústav pro hnědé uhlí a.s) in Most. In recent years, VUHU has concentrated on developing novel techniques aimed at minimising the environmental impact of brown coal production, treatment and use. This includes an interest in coal-to-liquids processes in general and the conversion of brown coal-derived materials into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons. Related


Entrained flow gasifier added to the Vresova site in 2006 to gasify generator tars and other liquid by-products from the fixed bed gasifiers, courtesy of SUAS
areas have included reducing its propensity for spontaneous combustion, and the development of new advanced technologies for the production of heat and electricity.

As part of its efforts aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of brown coal mining and use, VUHU has developed applications for the by-products and wastes of combustion and desulphurisation. Mining aspects addressed have included the control of dust emissions from surface mines, as well as practical improvements to coal handling systems, and the development of new engineering solutions for surface mining in general. There has also been a strong focus on the reclamation of depleted coal production sites. This has encompassed studies on the effects on air and water quality associated with remedial efforts. VUHU operates a number of dedicated accredited testing laboratories and business innovation and environmental centres. Laboratories cover topics such as geotechnics and hydrology, and technological processes and diagnostics.


Universities and R&D areas

Alongside VUHU, a number of Czech universities are also active in various brown coal-related areas. Areas of interest range from combustion-related effects, through the utilisation of combustion by-products, to the remediation of depleted mines sites. For example, the Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague maintains an interest in the fluidized bed combustion (and co-combustion with biomass) of brown coal, resultant emissions, and the use of wastes generated; Brno University of Technology and the University of West Bohemia have been active in brown coal gasification; and the Institute of Chemical Process Fundamentals was a partner in the RFCS-funded ‘HUGE’ and ‘HUGE 2’ projects that examined the underground gasification of brown coal for hydrogen production - the institute is also active in areas such as fluidised bed and entrained flow gasification/co-gasification, and CO₂ capture. Mining-related activities are handled mainly by The Technical University of Ostrava (VŠB –TUO) (via several of its institutes), CTU, Charles University, and the universities of Pardubice, Olomouc, and Masaryk.

There is also sometimes collaboration between coal companies and universities. For example, Sokolovská uhelná produces brown coal and operates the Vresova IGCC plant. It has partnered with academia to examine topics such as the production of liquid and chemical by-products generated from brown coal gasification at Vresova.

CCS-related projects have involved organisations such as the Czech Nuclear Research Institute, CTU, VŠB –TUO, and the Czech Geological Survey. Several of these have contributed towards major EU projects focused on CO₂ capture and storage from the country’s fossil fuel fired power plants. For example, recent studies examined ammonia-based post-combustion capture from brown coal-fired power plants, as well as flue gas cleaning and oxycombustion concepts. As part of this, CTU undertook a series of pilot plant trials.

A €5 million collaborative programme between the Czech Republic and Norway (‘Pilot Studies and Surveys on CCS Technology’) was launched mid-2015. This is addressing topics that include a pilot scale project on geological storage in the Czech Republic, a feasibility study of CCS pilot technologies for coal-fired power plants, assessment of the potential for CCS deployment in country, and CO₂ capture via high temperature absorption from flue gas (via carbonate looping). Czech involvement includes the Geological Survey, VŠB-TUO, ÚJV Řež, a.s., Miligal, s.r.o., Centrum výzkumu Řež, s.r.o., and the Masaryk University in Brno.



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