China is planning to expand its coal-fired capacity from 646,000 MW in 2010 to 1,030,000,000 MW in 2020, according to “Fossil & Nuclear Power Generation: World Analysis & Forecast” by McIlvaine Company. This will result in annual capital investment of $100 billion, including $10 billion per year for air pollution control equipment.

Coal-fired generation investment will exceed that of gas, nuclear, solar or wind, according to the latest forecast. India and a number of other Asian countries will be investing far more in coal-fired power generation than in alternatives, according to McIlvaine. Carbon sequestration is not planned for the vast majority of the planned power plants, but McIlvaine believes there will be many ways that coal-fired power plants will become “green,” including:
• Using the low-pressure steam for co-located industries rather than waste it in a cooling-tower cycle
• Making byproducts such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur, ammonium sulfate, and gypsum
• Replacing old, inefficient coal-fired power plants with 30-percent efficiency with ultra-supercritical power plants with 45-percent efficiency
• Co-locating desalination and municipal wastewater treatment plants with coal generators

The Spiritwood Plant of Great River Energy is an example of how green coal can become, McIlvaine says. The coal-fired power plant will use municipal wastewater for cooling and low-pressure steam will be used for grain drying and for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The residue from the cellulosic process can then be used to replace some of the coal in the steam generation.

One of the problems in maximizing co-location of ethanol and municipal wastewater treatment plants is the need to change the design to take advantage of low-pressure steam, McIlvaine says. In the case of cellulosic ethanol, the use of steam at lower temperatures than are optimum will require larger process equipment. In the case of municipal wastewater treatment plants, there needs to be a redesign to take advantage of plentiful low-cost heat to accelerate the biological processes and dry the sewage sludge.

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