Analysis
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

How much coal are we burning - and will we keep burning it?

Dr Ed Sherman
Dr Sherman trained in mathematical physics at Imperial College @edmaxsherman
License: All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace

Didcot is one of many coal plants due to close in the UK 

Coal occupies little space in the UK’s energy debate yet at the beginning of 2012 there were  still 19 power stations (28.6GW installed capacity) burning coal in the UK. Running through 2011 they had provided 103.7 TWh of electricity, around 30% of our use that year.

This involved shoveling 41.9 Mt of coal into these power stations, over three quarters of which was imported. If all the 32.5 Mt of imported coal had been the relatively cheap US stuff, going for around £90 a ton in 2011 market. Based on historical data from the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) this would still have cost in excess of £1.9bn - plus delivery (at a 2011 exchange rate). I can think of a few better uses for that money.

But will this continue?

The Emissions Performance Standards (EPS) in the Energy Bill should prevent new build. The limit on CO2 of 450 g/kWh will stop any coal fired power stations being built without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) (new plants have managed to cut from 900-1000 g/kWh all the way to maybe just below 700 g/kWh), but where does that leave old coal?

Well, six of these power stations have opted out of EU directives on acid rain which mean they can run for a maximum of 20,000 hours and must close by 2015. This was part of the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD), which meant a power station either had to opt-in and clean up its emissions, such as those of SOx and NOx, or close down.

For the 13 remaining power stations that opted in there are two schemes; the Emission Limit Values (ELV) based on concentrations of emitted nasties, or the National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP) based on an allowed mass to be emitted per year.

The 6 power stations set to close by 2015 have a total capacity of 8.7 GW, which will still leave 20GW of old coal on the system.

So what happened in 2012? Well, a whole load of coal got burnt. Partly because our American cousins were flogging cheap coal - domestic coal over there being displaced partially by the shale gas they don’t have the infrastructure to export and by renewables coming online.

The other driver of our coal use was our energy companies trying to rinse as many hours they can out of their coal plants before (a) they run out of hours and (b) before the UK’s carbon floor price comes in.

The famous Kingsnorth has already shut for good, it burnt through its remaining hours and went offline. Also, Tilbury converted from coal to biomass and then got set alight, but still has limited hours of run-time left. Some of the other opted-in plants are considering converting to biomass, most notably Drax.

Didcot A looks to be the next power station to close, followed by Cockenzie if it ever fires up again to use its remaining hours. Tilbury would come after, probably burning out next winter. Ferrybridge could last two years at its present rate of use. Ironbridge hasn’t fired up for a while, so could last to 2015 - but only because it is presumably not cost effective to run.

So what does the future hold for the 20 GW of old coal that isn’t opted out?

Well, there are two issues to be considered, and the possibility that the left hand and right hand are not aware of each other.

As of 2016 the LCPD is being replaced by even tougher limits on air pollution in the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which are roughly half the LCPD levels. Again the power stations can either close or opt-in, though there is a third way - a mechanism called the Transitional National Plan (TNP) that allows gradual compliance to 2020.

We are still waiting for DEFRA to publish its plan for meeting the requirements of the IED, and so far all the power stations look to be keeping their options open. This could mean all 20 GW of old coal preparing to opt-in again, though what the technology requirements are is not clear yet.

Even if it cuts its NOx and SOx emissions old coal is something of an antique embarrassment producing toxic slag and, of course, carbon dioxide. If old coal sticks around it will bust our carbon budget, cut into the investment in new build of renewables, and leave us importing ever increasing amounts of coal.

That’s £2bn a year of imports arguably better spent investing in infrastructure and insulation. Unless perhaps they want to pay for our flood defences and crop failures. These zombie coal power stations are incompatible with the urgency of our commitment to decarbonise our power supply. In climate terms a paint job and installing some air scrubbers is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Power Station

Owned by

Fuel

Capacity (MW)

Notes

Kingsnorth

E.On UK

Coal/Oil

1940

Now closed.

Ironbridge

E.On UK

Coal

940

To close by 2015.

Didcot A

RWE Npower Plc

Coal/Gas

1958

Probably close in 3-6 months

Cockenzie

Scottish Power

Coal

1152

Around 1000 hours run-time left, to close this year

Ferrybridge C

Scottish & Southern Energy plc

Coal/Biomass

1960

To close by 2015, could run for a couple of winters

Tilbury

RWE Npower Plc

Biomass

750

Converted to biomass. Could close by the end of the year.

Drax

Drax Power Ltd

Coal

3870

May convert to biomass.

Cottam

EDF Energy

Coal

2008

 

Ratcliffe

E.On UK

Coal

1960

 

Rugeley

International Power / Mitsui

Coal

1006

 

Aberthaw B

RWE Npower Plc

Coal

1586

 

West Burton

EDF Energy

Coal

2012

 

Eggborough

Eggborough Power Ltd

Coal

1960

 

Fiddler’s Ferry

Scottish & Southern Energy plc

Coal/Biomass

1961

 

Uskmouth

Scottish & Southern Energy plc

Coal/Biomass

363

 

Longannet

Scottish Power

Coal

2304

 

Kilroot

AES

Coal/Oil

520

 

Slough

Scottish & Southern Energy plc

Coal/Biomass

61

 

Wilton Power Station

Sembcorp Utilities (UK) Ltd

Coal/Oil/Gas

280

 
Comments Add new comment

A very clear and detailed account. Very difficult to foresee the outcome.and even more to see how to protect the planet.

Normal
0

false
false
false

MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-ansi-language:#0400;
mso-fareast-language:#0400;
mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

“The limit on CO2 of 450 g/kWh will stop any coal fired
power stations being built without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) (new plants
have managed to cut from 900-1000 g/kWh all the way to maybe just below 700
g/kWh), but where does that leave old coal?”

 We are using the
wrong technology!

 If we were using DCFC (Direct Carbon Fuel Cell) technology
we could get close to 500g/KWh without any CCS (DCFC is about 80% efficient compared
to 38% for thermal coal) and close to zero carbon with storage?. This technology has Carbon
Capture built-in, the waste stream is pure CO2, ready for sequestration (landfill) or
better still recycling. Furthermore the Chinese have five universities working
in parallel on this technology.

 The real solution however is NOT CCS but CCR (Carbon Capture
and Recycling). CCCR based on DCFC technology could provide the massive long
term (seasonal) storage to compliment the lower cost but intermittent renewables
and make them viable at massive scale.

 Finally I would add that there is nothing fundamentally
wrong with carbon as an energy source. Carbon is a brilliant energy
source/vector, it is energy dense and cheap and easy to store and transport. We
do not need to de-carbonised the energy industry, however we do need to de-fossilise
it!!!. and DCFC technology has the potential to do this.

 (Greenpeace – If you wish to contact me for more information
you have my eddress)

(Same again without the unintended 'Word' formatting)

The limit on CO2 of 450 g/kWh will stop any coal fired power stations being built without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) (new plants have managed to cut from 900-1000 g/kWh all the way to maybe just below 700 g/kWh), but where does that leave old coal?”

 We are using the wrong technology!

 If we were using DCFC (Direct Carbon Fuel Cell) technology we could get close to 500g/KWh without any CCS (DCFC is about 80% efficient compared to 38% for thermal coal) and close to zero carbon with storage?. This technology has Carbon Capture built-in, the waste stream is pure CO2, ready for sequestration (landfill) or better still recycling. Furthermore the Chinese have five universities working in parallel on this technology.

 The real solution however is NOT CCS but CCR (Carbon Capture and Recycling). CCCR based on DCFC technology could provide the massive long term (seasonal) storage to compliment the lower cost but intermittent renewables and make them viable at massive scale.

 Finally I would add that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with carbon as an energy source. Carbon is a brilliant energy source/vector, it is energy dense and cheap and easy to store and transport. We do not need to de-carbonised the energy industry, however we do need to de-fossilise it!!!. and DCFC technology has the potential to do this.

 (Greenpeace – If you wish to contact me for more information you have my eddress)

To find out more about what is predicted to happen about future coal usage in the UK download The Loose Anti Opencast's Briefing Note 'Assessing the Need for Coal' free from

   http://coalaction.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Finak-C1-ASSESSING-THE-NEED-FOR-COAL.pdf

We produced it as part of our 'Make Coal a 'Special Case' Campaign which welaunced in January 2014.

For more information on this see our 'Plea to make Coal a Special Case' press release @

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2014/01/514731.html

 

 

 

After Yeas Of Live Beta-testing On Facebook In Front
Of Over 12,315 Fans, Z-Code Finally Goes Private!

September 22, 2014: From The Desks of: Ron, Mike and Steve
Dear Facebook Follower And Valued Beta-Tester,
After years of development and months & months of ljve beta-testing on Facebook,
we are finally ready. Z-Code System goes private!
We are closing Z-Code to the public, removving it from tthe sight
of prting eyes (and the Las Vegas conglomerate of betting sharks that definitely do not want us to succeed) and we will use it
only for the sake off our VIP members aand obviously us, avid bettors
and money makers.
Not much has to be said about this system, which is the pinnacle of our develkper
careers (even topping Fapturbo, I'd say)...
because you, dear reader, shall experience it first-hand.

Here is my homepage: Stop Power Bills

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.