University Challenge on Coal-Fired Power Plants

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Byline: LEAH BURWOOD

Engineers at the University of Birmingham have been awarded pounds 750,000 to conduct research on analysing and optimising the performance of supercritical coal-fired power plants - a cleaner way of using coal to produce electricity.

The UK is facing a shortfall in electricity production by 2015 due to projected economic growth, life expectancy of existing power stations and because it will take a further ten years to build new nuclear power stations.

Governments worldwide are still looking at coal as a source of electrical power generation but are searching for ways to use the fossil fuel while keeping within legally-binding emission reduction targets.

Supercritical coal-fired plant technology - which operates at higher temperatures and pressures - is one option being considered as it improves energy efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions.

The boilers cost less than other clean coal technologies and can be fully integrated with appropriate means of CO2 capture.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology works by collecting the emissions produced from burning fossil fuels, in this case coal, and buries them in disused oil and coalfields offshore, preventing them from being released into the atmosphere.

Dr Jihong Wang, lead investigator from the University's School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, said: "Between 2015 and 2020 the UK will lose 25 per cent of its power generation capacity. We need reliable and affordable power technology to fill the gap. Although there is a wide variety of new generation technologies being considered, cleaner coal-fired power generation is a viable and realistic choice. …