CO2 Emissions Reduction – A Radical Plan

Posted on Tue 07/19/2011 by

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What if I was to say that a minimum of 23 to 30% CO2 emissions reduction could actually be achievable, just from the coal fired power generating sector alone, and from that, an overall CO2 emissions reduction of around 13%.

The Australian Government is in the process of attempting to introduce Legislation to place a price on Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions. The hope is that by doing this, it will have the effect of lowering those CO2 emissions by 5%. There are calls from the Australian Greens Party that this aim is too low, and we need to be aiming for somewhere in the vicinity of 20% emissions reduction.

What if I was to tell you that an emissions reduction of between 20 and 30% is actually attainable. It can be done without introducing a draconian new Tax, and it can be achieved without going down the renewable energy path, which can only supply tiny amounts of power for barely 6 hours a day, and is horrendously expensive.

On top of that, this radical plan has a price tag that while seemingly high, is in fact a fraction of what it will cost to go down that renewable energy path.

This actually is something that can be achieved.

How, you ask.

The answer in fact is what is perceived as the problem.

Coal fired power.

As happens with everything, technology improves over the years, and the same happens in the area of electrical power generation.

Those existing large scale coal fired power plants in Australia are all twenty to forty years old, and some even older.

New large scale coal fired plants have generators that can produce considerably larger amounts of power, they use better turbines to drive the generator, have better boilers to make the steam to drive the turbine, and have better furnaces to make the heat to make that steam, and most importantly in this case, they burn less coal, do that more efficiently, and in the process emit less CO2.

They are already using these new coal fired plants, especially in China, where large scal plants of this nature are being brought on line delivering power for consumers at the rate of one new plant a week.

So, if those older plants here in Australia were to be replaced with these new plants, there will be an overall reduction in the current emissions of CO2, and the most surprising thing in all of this is that those reductions could be in the vicinity of 25 to 30%.

Having said that, it is more complex than just changing over, and that needs some careful explanation.

For more than three years now I have been explaining how this blind acceptance that CO2 causes Climate Change/Global Warming has ramifications that very few people are aware of. Right from day one I nailed my flag to the pole and said that I do not agree that those CO2 emissions do cause what we are told they do. What I have done however is to warn of those secondary ramifications, that of the effect that this false belief will have on the electrical power generating sector.

40% of those CO2 emissions come from coal fired power generation, almost the cheapest form of generating large scale electrical power we have, and one that has an abundant and long lasting supply of the fuel it requires, the coal itself.

To generate the huge amounts of power that are required, these coal fired plants are the best method of actually doing that. Because the plants are robust in nature, they can operate on a 24/7/365 basis, and the only down time is for carefully scheduled maintenance.

To produce those huge levels of power a large generator (in fact a turbo alternator) runs at 3000RPM, or 50 rotations each second. Those generators can produce between 600 and 700MW of power, and they weigh in the vicinity of 1300 tons. So consider the drive required to turn that 1300 tons at 50 times a second.

Everything has to work backwards from the generator, because of the huge weight involved here. That generator needs a large turbine to drive it. The turbine needs immense amounts of high temperature high pressure steam which needs a huge heat source, the furnace, to boil water to the steam required.

Coal is burned in the furnace, and here’s where people have little concept of just how much coal is burned.

Those older large scale (2000MW+) coal fired plants can burn between 6.5 and 8 million tons of coal a year, which is around one ton of coal every four to five seconds.

Each ton of coal being burned produces on average 2.86 tons of CO2, so now you can see why those coal fired power plants are huge emitters of that CO2.

A large scale coal fired plant will have two to four of these large generators on site, the usual being four of them, hence the plant will produce around that 2000MW of power, depending on how old the plant might be. As an example, the plant at Bayswater has four 660MW generators for a total Nameplate Capacity of 2640MW. Each of those generators weighs 1342 tons.

As I mentioned, everything depends on the weight of the generator. You cannot just put one of those generators on top of a pole with a fan out the front and hope it will work. An average sized generator for one wind tower will produce 2MW, so here you can see that to equal that one generator at Bayswater, you would need 330 towers, and as wind power is so variable, they only work on a limited basis, the best case being around 6 to 7 hours of power a day.

There is Concentrating Solar, which is perceived as being able to replace large scale coal fired power. As I mentioned everything works backward from the generator. You cannot hook up one of those 1300 ton 700MW generators to a plant of this nature because those plants cannot make the steam required to drive that weight at that speed. The best they can manage so far is around 250MW in total, and the average power produced is around 150MW, and only for around 8 hours a day at the best. If that solar plant has heat diversion, they can manage only 50MW for 18 hours, so again you can see that this also cannot compete with large scale coal fired power generation.

NEW GENERATION COAL FIRED POWER

The most critical thing in all of this, as I have mentioned is the generator itself.

New large scale generators can produce 1000MW and more. This is achieved by better materials for the magnets in the rotor giving a higher magnetic field, wrapping those magnets in more electrical wiring to induce even higher magnetic fields, the classic electromagnet, supercooling that rotor so an even higher magnetic field again can be induced. Then better wiring in the stator where the actual ‘power’ is generated.

Hence these larger amounts of power can be generated. The technology has now advanced to the stage that these larger generators actually weigh less than those existing 1300 ton behemoths that produce less power. They still rotate at that 3000RPM.

So now the driving turbine does not need to be as large. Technology has improved here also, and those driving turbines again are smaller, better, and weigh less as well.

There are more efficient boilers to produce the steam required to drive the turbine.

The furnaces are also a quantum level better producing greater heat at a higher pressure to boil the water to steam. Those furnaces burn the coal more efficiently as well.

The coal crusher technology has also improved for feeding it into the furnace. There’s better air injection as well.

See now how everything works backwards from the generator itself.

Because the coal is burned more efficiently a considerably less amount of coal is required for the process, and because it is is burned more efficiently, then there are considerably less emissions of CO2 from the process.

NEW TECHNOLOGY COAL FIRED POWER IN AUSTRALIA

There are currently two proposals in Australia to construct new large scale power additions to the existing power supply. Both projects have been approved, and now all that is required is for the process to be decided as to which one will be used, coal fired or other options.

One of those processes is for new technology coal fired power.

Both projects are to be added as extensions to existing large scale coal fired power plants, one at Mt Piper near Lithgow, and the second for Bayswater, near Musswellbrook, both in New South Wales. Both proposals are for an addition of 2000MW of Nameplate Capacity at each plant, 4000MW in all.

Here is the relevant information for the expansion at the Mt Piper plant. (pdf document)

The proposal for the coal fired process calls for the addition of two of those 1000MW generators.

Every step in the process utilises the most recent technology, and the most important thing to look at here (with respect to emissions) is the furnace.

In this case, that furnace will be the new ultra supercritical furnace, and this information is from that linked site above:

Supercritical steam is that which occurs above the critical point of water at 22.1 MPa and 374 degrees C. Ultra-supercritical, is generally regarded as plant which operates with steam conditions above about 26 MPa and 580 degrees C. This allows more efficient consumption of coal and results in lesser CO2 emission levels per MW produced than the existing subcritical technology currently used in Units 1 and 2.

The most important part of this statement is that this process has a more efficient consumption of coal resulting in less CO2 emissions.

What is also mentioned is that for this process, that of producing 2000MW of power, this new addition will be consuming less than 5 Million tons of Coal each year.

As I have mentioned earlier, existing large scale coal fired plants (2000MW and greater) consume on average between 6.5 and 8 million tons.

So, right there, is less coal being consumed, in fact 23% less coal being consumed, at the lower existing amount of that 6.5 million tons.

That being the case, then even at the current rate of emission, there would be a saving of 23% in CO2 emissions. The above statement says that the coal will be consumed more efficiently with less emissions, so in fact, the emissions savings will be greater than that 23%. In fact the existing Mt Piper plant has a total power production of 1400MW and CO2 emissions of 9.1 Million tons of CO2. The new expansion plant will have a total power of 2000MW and emissions just on 10 million tons, 43% more power for only a 10% increase in emissions, which is a comparative reduction in emissions of 30% over the original process.

THE CO2 TAX AND REPLACING THOSE EXISTING COAL FIRED PLANTS WITH NEW COAL FIRED PLANTS

It only stands to reason that if every large scale coal fired plant in Australia was to be replaced with this new coal fired technology, then there would be an overall reduction in CO2 emissions of between 20 and 30%.

As I mentioned above, it’s more complex than that.

Here’s something that I bet you won’t hear the Government telling you about their new Tax on those emissions.

Every one of those current large scale coal fired plants has a legally binding contract to provide electricity to the grids they supply. Those contracts are long term, and in nearly every case those contracts are valid until the 2030’s or 2040’s, so as much as there is the belief that the introduction of this tax will see those plants closing down, that won’t happen until the contract runs out.

The contract that each provider has to supply that power works both ways.

If a plant operator counts the beans and says that it’s not worth paying the increased Tax, and decides to close down, then the Government will hold them to their contract.

See how the Government isn’t being serious about this Tax. If the plant actually wants to close the Government won’t let them. Even if the plant falls into financial difficulty, the Government itself has provisions to provide loans for the plant to stay in operation. This will not lower emissions. All this does is ensure the Government income long into the future.

What is also not known is that to actually deliver the amount of power they do, those plants will burn the absolute minimum amount of coal to actually do that, because after all, they have to pay for the 6 million tons of coal and more that they consume.

This Tax is an interim measure until a full ETS comes into force. That ETS will then lower the cap of emissions each year. The plant still has to burn the same amount of coal each year, so lowering the cap will in effect see them in breach of their contract if they have to burn the same amount of coal to produce the same amount of power. Lowering the Cap means they have to in effect produce less power. So they burn the same amount of coal they always have. Only now, with the ETS in place, they then have to purchase the extra credits for what they emit, and then pay a penalty on top of that again for exceeding their Cap, and because that is an outright penalty there will be provisions in that ETS legislation that those added costs cannot be passed down to consumers.

See now how this great new Tax is designed not to actually lower those emissions, but is just a device for raising enormous amounts of money for the Government.

So, these plants already have a valid and legal contract, so in effect, they do not have to do anything at all until that contract expires.

If the Government actually was serious about lowering those emissions, then replacing existing plants with new ones like I have described here becomes an attractive option.

They could start a massive infrastructure program to replace those old plants with the new better technology plants. They could even subsidise them in the same manner they are currently subsidising those piddlingly small renewable power plants they announce every so often. In this manner they could actually achieve a lowering of emissions, and in fact secure that Base Load requirement well into the future.

THE COST FOR REPLACING EXISTING COAL WITH NEW COAL

The replacement cost for the addition of this new technology for Bayswater has been quoted at being around $1 Billion. Keep in mind that this is for 2000MW of Nameplate Capacity. The above pdf document quotes the Capacity Factor for the new plant at 80%. That means there will be a delivery of power of 14,000GWH (GigaWattHours) What is the case with large scale coal fired power in operation in most parts of the World is that these newer plants are actually running at a CF of around 87.5%, which would equate to a delivery of 15,300GWH. However, for the sake of this exercise, I’ll go with the lower CF of that 80%.

Let’s then look for a comparison.

The Government recently announced that they have approved a new Concentrating Solar Plant, the Solar Dawn project at Chinchilla in Queensland.

That plant will cost $1.2 Billion, half of that in subsidies from the Federal and State Governments. Solar Dawn will deliver 550GWH of power each year, and that is at the theoretical best case maximum.

The Government has announced this ONE plant. How many more and at what cost will there be to even consider replacing any level of coal fired power in Australia, be it just the one plant or perhaps the dozen or so large scale plants currently in operation.

So let’s then go with the solar plants absolute maximum of 550GWH and Bayswater expansion minimum of 14,000GWH

For less money than what the solar plant will cost, Bayswater expansion will deliver nearly 26 times the total power. Bayswater will deliver that power 24/7/365. Solar Dawn might deliver its power for 6 hours a day.

There just is no comparison.

So, to even equal what Bayswater expansion will deliver, you would need to construct 26 projects similar to Solar Dawn at a cost of $31.2 Billion, and you still only get power for 6 hours a day.

There just is no comparison.

Solar Dawn will have a life span of 25 years. Bayswater expansion will have a lifespan of between 50 and 75 years.

There just is no comparison.

Even though both the Mt Piper and the Bayswater expansions have been approved, what chance in the current climate do you think they will have of being constructed.

That same proposal also canvasses the construction of a Combined Cycle Gas Fired Plant at each site to produce the same power. This will entail 6 turbine/generator complexes, and will cost considerably more than the coal fired proposal. On top of that, they will need to spend perhaps billions more on the construction of Gas pipelines to get the gas to the new plants.

The new Carbon Tax hopes to lower emissions by 5%.

Replacing old coal fired plants with new coal fired plants will save between 25 and 30% of emissions.

If none of this convinces you, look closely at this next chart from that above pdf document linked to.

This shows that actual electricity requirements will reach a point in 2014 when what is currently in place will not be able to provide the power that will be needed. If this does not horrify you, then be prepared for power cuts if reliable constant electricty power generation is not constructed. No form of renewable power can even begin to fill that requirement. New technology coal fired power CAN provide that level of power.

THERE JUST IS NO COMPARISON.

UPDATE

As is most often the case, there is always something more that needs to be mentioned, and here something that is important does need to be included.

The construction for Bayswater is proposed to cost around $1 Billion, and it’s supposedly around the same for Mt Piper.
Why they can do it that cheaply, is due to the fact that they are already at existing coal fired power plants.
Even were the price to double, it’s still at the very least TEN times cheaper than for any renewable plant, and with this new process, you get power 24/7/365 instead of variable power for around 6 hours a day, and for that, you would need to also construct backup for when wind and solar are not on line.
New stand alone plants would cost more, but here you could kill two birds with one stone. Build them at the site of the already existing plant where infrastructure is already in place. Keep the old plant going until the new one is ready. Switch off (figuratively speaking) the old one and run the new one up.

What is the most important thing here is the existing contracts and that those existing plants have to stay in operation, because they would need to buy them out first. It would be cheaper to keep them in operation, and believe me, that will happen no matter what.

However, the same problem exists if they were to go down the path of renewables. They would still need to buy out the plants for that anyway. See why this is so important?

The Government knows that these plants have contracts, and they know those plants will be in operation until those contracts expire.

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