Coal-based power generation will continue to play a major role for decades. The current coal-fired fleet provides over 320 GWe of capacity and accounts for more than half the electricity generated in the U.S. What’s more, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that another 100 GWe of coal-fired capacity will be added over the next two decades.
WRI, along with the utility industry and the U.S. Department of Energy, is investigating ways to improve the efficiency of existing coal-fired units and modify plants to substantially reduce gaseous pollutants such as mercury, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides. We are also looking ahead to CO2 capture and storage. Ash use, water consumption, and materials of construction are other pressing issues.
WRI is pursuing solutions and providing technical services in support of the current fleet of power plants. Examples include WRI’s coal upgrading and hazardous air pollution mitigation technologies and activities conducted with government and utility partners in our Combustion Test Facility and Sorbent Test Facility. WRI is providing technical support to the EPA for the definition of the continuous emissions monitoring protocol for the Clean Air Mercury Rules.
The industry is also looking toward the future coal-fired fleet. Advanced combustion systems, such as those in ultra-super critical plants, offer higher efficiencies and reduced emissions. In addition, Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants are being planned as a way of producing energy, as well as capturing CO2 emissions for sequestration. IGCC affords the opportunity to significantly reduce emissions, lower freshwater consumption and increase efficiency.
Wyoming coal, with its low heating value and high moisture, is at a disadvantage against eastern bituminous coals in these future plant configurations, especially for IGCC at high elevations. WRI is evaluating upgrading technologies and aggressively pursuing gasification technologies, testing and other activities that will ensure that all the nation’s coal resources may be used effectively well into the future.