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Category Archives: coal-water-slurry

Coal is the single largest fuel used for power generation all over the world, due to its abundant availability and established infrastructure and technology. However, greenhouse gas emission poses a significant challenge in continuing the usage of coal as prime fuel. Currently, Natural gas is favored as fuel for power generation and number of LNG (liquefied natural gas) plants have been set up in many parts of the world. Coal seam methane gas is another potential source that competes with natural gas. Basically, Methane is the major constituent of such gases in the form of Hydrogen  and they are suitable for both combustion as well as for gasification for power generation. Countries who are endowed with large deposits of coal such as Australia, South Africa, Indonesia have advantages in clean coal technologies and in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. There is an opportunity for coal-fired power plants to continue their operations, if they can solve the greenhouse gas emission and other pollution problems associated with coal. Number of companies are now re-evaluating clean coal technologies such as IGCC and carbon capture and reuse.

As we have seen in previous articles, Hydrogen is the key in developing clean coal technology of the future. That is why, gasification technology such as IGCC (Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle) is gaining importance over combustion technologies because that is the only way we can introduce a Hydrogen molecule in the combustion by way of ‘Syngas’. By introducing Hydrogen, we not only can improve the thermal efficiency but also use the heat of combustion to the most by combined cycle with reduced GHG emission. It also facilitates the usage of existing and known power generation technologies such as, steam turbine and gas turbine, as well as, new technologies such as Fuel cell and Hydrogen turbines.

Coal in the form of pumpable liquid (CWS –coal water slurry) is another key milestone in developing a clean coal technology. Countries like China and Indonesia have been using coal water slurry for power generation successfully. Finely powdered coal is mixed with water in the ratio of 60:40 along with dispersant such as Lignosulfonate as additives to make a finely dispersed, viscous liquid that resembles heavy petroleum oil, ready for combustion. It is easier to handle pumpable oil than a solid coal.

A novel products called ‘colloidal coal water’ (CCW) is a finely dispersed colloidal coal in water with additives such as surfactants and dispersants with specific formulating agents leading to certain rheological properties is a key development in clean coal technology. The coal water slurry now used does not have long-term stability and storage properties like colloidal coal water fuel. The work is under development and it is expected that such finely dispersed colloidal coal water mix resembling a liquid hydrocarbon may be named as ‘liquid coal’ for all practical purposes will become a low-cost fuel in the future power generation.

This ‘colloidal coal liquid’ can be easily gasified or used as liquid fuel for combustion equipment such as boilers and also serve as precursor for a number of chemical product synthesis as downstream products. The emitted Carbon dioxide can be captured cryogenically and separated in a pure form for potential application such as ‘Natural Refrigerant’ and to synthesize number of chemical products. Clean coal can become a commercial reality provided we re-evaluate the coal preparation, gasification methods and to contain emitted carbon into a useful product of commerce.

Dirty coal is still a popular choice for power generation around the world, irrespective of the status of the country, whether industrially advanced or backward. The abundant availability and cheap cost, makes coal more attractive from investor’s point of view; they care less for the environment, while Governments turn a blind eye to all the emissions and pollutions. It is a question of survival for millions of people who work in coal mines and industries. It is one of the toughest challenges many Government are facing. Take for example India; about 65% of power generation still comes from coal. The import of coal increases year after year and there is no immediate solution in sight. Indian coal is a low-grade coal with very high ash content. Each coal-fired power plant generates a huge amount of fly ash and they stockpile them; supposed to be used in the production of Portland cement. It is a big business.

China and Indonesia too uses coal as a major fuel for power generation. But they have come out with an innovative and pragmatic method of using coal. They use coal-water-slurry (CWS), a finely pulverized high  grade coal (calorific value 5100-6100Kcal/kg) in water. They use some chemical additives that make the slurry a homogeneous fluid, similar to a Hydrocarbon such as Heavy fuel oil (HFO).The advantage with CWS is it can be easily pumped and injected into a furnace or boiler using ceramic nozzles, obviously to avoid erosion due the abrasive nature of coal, just like firing diesel or heavy oil. According to the literature, 1.8 -2.2 tons of CWS is equal to 1 ton of Heavy fuel oil (HFO) and it costs about the same. It cost only US$ 62 million to retrofit an existing coal-fired power plant with CWS system and the yearly savings are estimated at US$ 41 mil per year, an attractive rerun on investment.

The beautiful aspect of this method is it generates Hydrogen rich Syngas according to the following chemical reaction.

2C + O2+2 H2O ——– 2H2+2 CO2 when the mixture is subject to Gasification instead of mere Combustion.

The combustion efficiency is about 96-99% and the boiler efficiency of more than 90%. It generates less Sulfur dioxide and Nitrogen oxide emissions and good for the environment compared to conventional coal-fired power plants. It is a good technology that needs the attention of Governments especially India, China and Indonesisa.Even coal rich countries like US, Australia should focus on this technology apart from their persuasion such as carbon sequestration.

In fact this will open new avenues for India and China to switch over to Hydrogen economy without making large investments. The coal water slurry fluid has a property similar to a Hydrocarbon as shown below.

Density 65-70% ,Viscosity -1000Cp, Size d< 50 microns, Ash content <7, Sulfur<0.5%. It is easy to handle a liquid than solid coal. pulverized coal is pneumatically conveyed and fired in rotary cement kilns for so many years. There is nothing new about it. Similarly coal water slurry can be a game changer for  the power industry,  if it is combined with Gasification and combined cycle;  it will lead  into Hydrogen based power generation industry using Fuel cell such as Molten Carbonate Fuel cell (MCFC). I believe there is a clear opportunity for the Governments and private industries  to seriously look into CWS technology which I believe, is a ‘precursor’ for Hydrogen economy of the future.

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