Coal Fired Power Dying – Not So Fast – Part Four – SteamH, The Future For Coal Fired Power

Posted on Sun 06/13/2021 by


By Anton Lang ~

Whenever it comes to a future for coal fired power, I am always drawn back to these two images shown below here, and while I have sized them to fit this page, if you click on each individual image, it will open on a new tab, and at a much larger size so you can better see the detail.


These two images show the average for power consumption in Australia for a typical year, and while the date at the top specifically is 18March 2020, this image shows all indicators at, or as close as is possible to the actual year round average for the 2020 year. The two figures of most importance here are the year round average for overall daily power consumption, and that was 550GWH per day, and that equates down to an hourly average of 23125MW. The Base Load is the red line drawn across the page at the 18,000MW mark, and that Base Load is the lowest level power gets down to on average. That Base Load then makes up just under 78% of ALL the consumed power on a daily basis.

Now, while this data is for Australia, the shape of that Load Curve you see is basically the same for every Country on the Planet, well, for every State, Region, and even down to the city level, and that Base Load is basically the same percentage everywhere in the World as well, around 75% of all the consumed power.

The left image shows the addition of all four renewable sources of power, and as you can see under the graph, only those four renewables boxes are ticked to show on the graph, and as with figures I mentioned above, these are also as close as is possible to the average for the whole of year 2020. The second image shows the same Load Curve, the same Base Load, and here I have added in both versions of coal fired power in Australia, and as you can also see under the graph itself just the boxes are ticked for black coal, and brown coal, and again, these also are as close as possible to the year round average for both versions of coal fired power.

Now, as is obvious, the four renewable sources do not even get close to that minimum power consumption, the 18000MW Base Load, while it is obvious that coal fired power is what DOES supply the vast bulk of all power, and also is close to delivering almost ALL of that Base Load power.

Now, as I mentioned, the same applies for every Country on Earth, so that is why I can say that coal fired power has a future, because it is only coal fired power that CAN deliver those huge amounts of power required to run any and every Country. As I also mentioned in the earlier Posts in this Series, those already Developed Countries, like the U.S. especially, well they solely used coal fired power in the years that those Countries developed. Now here we are in 2021, and all over the World, Developed Countries are seeking to, well ….. Develop. That can only be achieved with coal fired power, so that’s why coal fired power does have that future, and why, all over the Developing World, coal fired plants are being constructed, mainly in China for now, because they started first, but India is close behind, and other Countries are also following.

Currently, in the World today, there are one billion people who have no access to electricity at all, and a further two and a half billion people who do not have enough electricity in the Countries they live in to sustain economic development. Renewable power is intermittent and low in total generated power, and electrical power is needed on a constant and reliable basis for that economic development to happen, and that’s where coal fired power plays a part, large scale, reliable, constant power, and that’s why coal fired power does have a future.

In the same manner as has happened with everything, coal fired power has continually advanced and improved across the years. They have not stopped trying to make it better just because we already have large scale coal fired plants. Coal fired power has gone through five different levels of technological improvement over the years, each one a vast improvement on the earlier level of technology, and infinitely improved on what it was originally. Those levels of technology are as follows:

Sub Critical – Critical – SuperCritical – UltraSuperCritical – Advanced UltraSuperCritical.

The latest level of technology is Advanced UltrSuperCritical, (A-USC) and here, that ‘critical’ part of the wording specifically relates to the steam which drives the turbine, which in turn, then drives the generator to produce the large amounts of electrical power. That steam is now at a much higher temperature and at a much higher pressure. To achieve this, new metals had to be found to be able to withstand those pressures and temperatures in the boiler/furnace part of the overall process, where the coal itself is burned. Also, to achieve this latest level of technology, then the Efficiency of the furnace/boiler had to also be improved, and this itself relates directly to the burning of the coal itself, and hence the acronym which these most recent advancements in coal fired power now use HELE coal fired power, and that stands for High Efficiency Low Emissions, because hand in hand with each increase in Efficiency comes a decrease in the Emissions of Carbon Dioxide. (CO2) For each one percent increase in Efficiency, it results in a two percent reduction in the emissions of CO2.

The current World wide average for Efficiency in coal fired power plants is 34%, (shown at this link, and this on page 4 of a 61 page pdf document) and with this new technology A-USC, that Efficiency is now 49.1% (at this same link and on page 7 of that 61 page pdf document) Each level of technological improvement may only seem in the smallest of increments, and this improvement over the earlier level UltraSuperCritical (USC) is just 4%, and as you can see, all four levels have only improved Efficiency by 15%, but when those emissions of CO2 are shown in the same breath, then that Efficiency increase has led to a reduction in those CO2 emissions of 30%, and that actually is significant, considering that the current World average is only that lower level of 34% Efficiency.


The Company which has finally developed this new level of advancement is General Electric (GE) the largest electrical power equipment manufacturer on the Planet. Now, while GE is a U.S. Company, well, in reality a Global Company, they are doing those work in many other Countries, foremost among them, China, and GE have a technology sharing agreement in place with China.

The details of this SteamH advancement are detailed in that 61 page pdf document I linked to above, and the advantages over even the previous level tech of USC are many, and from that, you can guess that those people involved in the development of coal fired power are not in agreement with those who say that coal fired power is a technology from the past that is dying out. This new tech version of coal fired power generation is probably the most advanced form of power generation from any source at the moment. There just is no comparison when comparing this to older tech coal fired power plants. While those advancements in every part of the process are so numerous, let’s just look at one of them.

How often have you heard that coal fired power is inflexible, and that it cannot ramp up and down to follow the load?

Is that correct?

Well, no! Look at the above Load Curve graph again, the one on the right which shows both types of coal fired power, and look at the relationship between the colours and the Upper black line, the actual Load across the day. Now, while Brown coal fired power is relatively stable across the day, you can see from the darker colour, the one for black coal fired power that it does go up and down across the day. It does that every single day, following the Load as it rises from the usual morning low, to the early peak. It then falls away, only to rise again for the usual evening Peak at around 6PM, and then slowly drop off again to the overnight low. That difference between the low for the day and the high averages at around 4000MW, and can be as high as 6000MW, and here, keep in mind that this is just for Australian figures, but the same applies everywhere. Coal fired power ramps up and down on a daily basis, following the Load. It does this easily, as in every case, at every time, those rises and falls in the ACTUAL Load are known, so it only needs to ramp up and down on that basis. True, coal fired power is slow to come back on line after maintenance, in other words, starting up from cold to delivering full power, and in those older tech plants from the 80s which were so prevalent, and are now closing after serving out their full life spans of around 50 years, well, those older plants were slow to come on line from coal, and that was usually around six hours or so.

However, with this new A-USC, and this one SteamH from GE, that start up time from cold is now down to under 30 minutes, and that is a game changer for coal fired power. With all of the new advancements, this puts coal fired power now at the forefront of power generation. That information is shown in the article at this link.

Three of these new technology plants are currently either finished and delivering power or close to doing that, and others are no doubt already in planning not just in China, but in other parts of the World as well.

The first of these new tech plants is the second phase of Shenneng Anhui Pingshan Power Plant in China. This plant is running a single 1,350MW Unit. The second plant is the Yildirim Karaburun plant in Turkey (of all places) and this plant is running two 800MW units. The third will be the Fuyang Phase 2 plant which will be running two 660MW Units.

The first to start operations was that Pingshan Plant, and that is running a single 1,350MW Unit, the largest operating single coal fired Unit on Earth. That is the Unit shown in the image below, and the irony is not lost on me of painting what we are told is a filthy black coal fired power plant in a creamy whitish colour.

The generator is in the foreground, that round structure with the green pipes. That huge structure immediately behind the generator is the driving turbine with the steam pipes along the top of that. That is a huge generator output of 1350MW from just the one generator. Back in the 1980s, the older technology plants were in the second level of technology, Critical, and the largest generator for a single Unit was 660MW. This generator is more than double that size power output. Now while this is a single Unit, to demonstrate the process, the most common further utilisation of this new A-USC process will be two Unit operations with two 660MW Units, and this will be the case in China, as this layout is better suited to operations there. Information about this single Pingshan Unit is at this link. It is also mentioned at this article that during operations, this plant will burn 251 grams of coal for every KiloWattHour of generated power, and consider the fact that the current World average for the burning of coal at coal fired power plants is around 340 grams of coal per KWH. And that’s a huge reduction in coal burning and from that, the emissions of CO2.

The information about the second plant in China, the Fuyang plant is shown at the bottom of the article at this link. That plant began construction late in 2020.

The information contained in that long pdf document is also well worth reading, and here’s that link again.

This four part Series has been eye opening for me. I had to track down information that was difficult to locate in parts, and it has only confirmed to me that coal fired power does indeed have a future. It may be going out of fashion in the already Developed World, where the emissions of CO2 have turned coal fired power into a virtual pariah, and everyone is actually scared to even mention that coal fired power might have a future, any future at all.

Not only has technology NOT fallen away, but it is continuing on the same scale, if not even on a larger scale. These new technology plants are being constructed in numbers, not just in China, but everywhere now. (It’s just that no one even talks about them) The earlier technology plants are having their lives extended, and they are being upgraded to improve their efficiency as well.

What it also confirmed and overwhelmingly confirmed is that China is now the World leader in coal fired power plant construction, and while they are building new plants in China at a very large rate of one every seven to ten days, they (China) are now constructing these new technology plants in other Countries as well.

The Big Four of power plant infrastructure are still doing very well, and all of them now have large operations in China as well, and incidentally, GE itself has now acquired Alstom, another of those big four, and their base of operations is in Wuhan China, and I think all of us are aware of that City now.

So, yes, no matter what anyone will say, and no matter what anyone will try to tell you, Coal fired power does indeed have a future, and that future looks to be very long.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.