“Japan is now the world’s largest supporter of coal-fired power plants in developing countries, using its advanced Ultra-Supercritical design. This clashes with the stance of the Obama administration, which has opposed the financing of coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world.”
Between 2007 and 2012, Japan provided more than $20 billion in financial support to build new advanced coal-fired power generation capacity in developing countries. This country’s Ultra-Supercritical coal-fired plants can be found in such places as Chile, Vietnam and India.
Japan is currently replacing many of its old coal plants with new advanced-design units and plans to build more than 40 new such facilities.
In short, Japan is placing the interests of its people ahead of climate change hysteria. Compare this to Obama administration’s war on coal whereby regulations are issued to prevent the use of coal and building new coal plants, even new, highly efficient Ultra-supercritical plants.
Existing, traditional coal-fired power plants in the United States average a thermal efficiency of around 32% HHV. The thermal efficiency of coal-fired power plants in Japan is now over 40% and could rise to around 45% HHV. This is a significant improvement, with a 36% gain in efficiency over older units. Emissions of traditional pollutants are reduced in the process.
“Clean Coal”/IGCC Waste
Advanced metallurgy is behind Japan’s coal-fired power plant improvements. The coal industry in the United States, however, is promoting enormously expensive Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants as clean coal. These plants rely on capturing CO2 and sequestering it underground, a politically correct solution to what is increasingly being recognized as a solution in search of a problem.
IGCC plants cost over $6,000 per KW … which is about the same as the cost of a new nuclear power plant. Both technologies are the worst choices for firm, base load power.
U.S. coal advocates continue to proselytize for its concept of “clean coal” using IGCC power plants, which is unfortunate because Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants are far less costly and are truly clean with respect to emission of pollutants (CO2 is not a pollutant). For more on this subject, see my post, Clean Coal is Dead, Long Live Clean Coal.
Subsidies for IGCC power plants and for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) are not warranted and waste taxpayer money. Carbon capture and sequestration is a fantasy, with an impossible objective of storing huge quantities of CO2 in geologic formations underground.
Not only is the quantity of CO2 emitted by the United States large, but there is no certainty that the CO2 would remain underground for the thousands of years needed to prevent a climate catastrophe, assuming CO2 is the cause of climate change.
Other unresolved CCS issues include:
The massive costs associated with CCS, and the uncertainty over whether the CO2 would remain sequestered underground for centuries, leads to the conclusion that CCS is unrealistic. (See my post, The Why and How of Carbon Capture and Sequestration.)
India has also placed the interests of its people ahead of climate change by increasing its coal-fired power production of electricity an average of 9% per year between 2005 and 2012. Reportedly, the thermal efficiency of coal-fired power plants in India is only 27%, far below the potential efficiency of new Ultra-supercritical coal-fired plants.
If India adopts Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants with assistance from Japan, it could ultimately increase the thermal efficiency of its coal-fired power plants from 27% to 40%, or more, with a correspondingly large reduction in emissions.
Japan is now the world’s largest supporter of coal-fired power plants in developing countries, using its advanced Ultra-Supercritical design. This clashes with the stance of the Obama administration, which has opposed the financing of coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world. (With pressure from environmental groups and the governments of Europe and the United States, the World Bank has stopped funding coal-fired power plants in developing countries.)
Japan has undertaken to finance coal-fired power plants in the countries that the World Bank won’t. Construction of Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants around the world would help bring people out of poverty, while improving air quality where older, less efficient coal-fired power plants have been in use. It would put people ahead of climate change hysteria.
Building Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants in the United States, meanwhile, would keep electricity prices low, while maintaining continued improvements in air quality as older, less efficient units are replaced.
Donn Dears, a retired executive and engineer, regularly comments on energy issues at his blog, Power For USA. He is an energy technology expert, having been involved in the manufacture of power generation, transmission, and distribution equipment.