18.5 INTERNATIONAL

18.5 INTERNATIONAL

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RESEARCH
International Perspectives on Brown Coal R&D
- AMERICA -






Brown Coal R&D – A North American Perspective
By Jason D. Laumb, Principal Engineer, Coal Utilization Group Lead, John P. Kay, Principal Engineer, Emissions and Carbon Capture Group Lead, Joshua J. Stanislowski, Principal Process Engineer, Energy Systems Development and Edward N. Steadman, Vice President for Research, Energy & Environmental Research Center, University of North Dakota

The recent focus on brown coal research in North America has been on managing carbon dioxide emissions. This focus has created several opportunities for the development of new power cycles and implementation of existing technologies for the coal power fleet.

SaskPower has implemented post-combustion CO₂ capture technology at Unit 3 of its Boundary Dam Plant in Estevan, Saskatchewan. This is a first-of-its-kind undertaking that leads the way in providing lessons for future commercial applications. Information will be gained on many aspects of technology implementation, such as unexpected costs and savings, performance results, operational challenges, and regional impacts.

As SaskPower proceeds with this commercial application of carbon capture and storage (CCS), it is important to capture critical information that can serve to identify areas where cost savings and operational improvements can be realized in future installations. In addition, the information available from the Boundary Dam facility will provide a better understanding of the current state of the art and the next research and development needs to further improve commercial implementation of CCS technologies.

The focus on CO₂ capture in the United States has provided the research community with challenges and concomitant opportunities to explore advanced power cycles, and rare-earth element extraction from coal and coal by-products, coupled with renewable power and coal beneficiation.

One opportunity of specific interest is in the northern Great Plains region, where there is synergistic incentive to develop and implement CCS technologies. Regional industry partners are actively seeking options that can cost-effectively improve the efficiency of power production while coproducing CO₂ for use in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) applications. The region has a current demand for CO₂ as a commodity for EOR in conventional oil fields and a strong forecast for increased electricity demand because of regional oil and gas activity.

The Energy & Environmental Research Center’s (EERC’s) Plains CO₂ Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships, estimates that approximately 1 billion metric tons of CO₂ opportunity exists for the top conventional oil fields in the plains region. The initial estimates for the Bakken shale oil EOR (unconventional) opportunity are for an additional 2 billion to 3.2 billion metric tons. These commodity markets for CO₂ create the opportunity to offset the capture and first-of-a-kind costs while developing higher-efficiency, cost-effective technologies that reach broader applications and meet the future needs for coal-fired power in other regions.
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Specific technologies to meet the projected CO₂ and power market demands that are being considered are advanced power cycles that use CO₂ as the working fluid to generate power. These indirect-fired supercritical CO₂ technologies can provide electricity at a high efficiency (>40%) while also supplying an injection-ready stream of CO₂.

The future of coal research in the United States will be focused on developing and implementing new technologies for the existing fleet, as well as new installations.

One can see many positive impacts on federal funding being made available for advanced technologies utilizing coal. Positive industry sentiments, in some regions, certainly will open the door for expanded coal mining and gas and oil extraction in the United States.

Hurdles may become more relaxed for permitting a coal plant in the United States, but reduced regulations on oil and gas extraction will also help to keep natural gas prices low. Utilities will continue to look for the lowest-cost sources for generation, and new natural gas facilities may be favored over coal facilities because of the low price of natural gas. However, limited natural gas pipeline infrastructure in some areas and recent concerns with permitting of pipelines may encourage utilities to take a closer look at coal plants, especially advanced cycles.

It is easy to assume that DOE’s interest in advanced coal cycles will remain strong into the foreseeable future. It is expected that the time frame for implementation of advanced technologies becomes more achievable with the current investments by state, federal, and industry sources. Undoubtedly, a long-term plan for managing CO₂ from fossil fuels is necessary to maintain reliable electric power in the United States.



EERC Researcher Engineer Nathan Fiala monitors a CO₂ absorber during a recent test.


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