Wait a minute... there is clean coal!

Wait a minute... there is clean coal!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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Dear Editor,

It appears that the so-called experts with many degrees and technical knowledge have not kept up to date with the current technology that makes emissions from coal-powered plants environment-friendly.

Modern-day coal-burning power plants, if fitted with a Circulating Fluidised Bed (CFB) boilers would significantly reduce the noxious emissions. There are also additional features to reduce unfavourable emissions.

Jamaica is a land with an abundance of limestone, and this, when included in the operation of a CFB, reduces the levels of adverse emissions even further. The suppliers of this equipment are in a position to guarantee emissions at or better than World Bank standards, and certainly better than the current Jamaican standards.

Coal with up to 4 per cent of sulphur can be handled without too much additional expense. Colombian coal contains 1 per cent and less sulphur, which would make coal-burning plants less hazardous. As a matter of fact, the USA has bought low-sulphur coal from Colombia notwithstanding the lower cost of high-sulphur coal available in the USA.

The capital cost per megawatt would be higher than that of reciprocating engines or units which utilise other fuels. With use of clean coal technologies, however, the pay-off is in reduced cost per megawatt hour generated.

Importantly, the price of coal is one of the most stable when compared with the prices for other generating plants. It is indicated that the price of coal is not trending up, but trending down. Because of this, the low cost of this fuel in the full operation of coal-fired plants negates or compensates for the higher capital cost.

There are expressions of concern regarding the residual ash from a coal plant. This ash can be used in the aggregate mix of cement. In the event of no cement company becoming involved, the ash can be spread on the fields or used in the ballast in the construction of roads. With this process, the potential hazards in the ash could be eliminated making this by-product safe.

There is talk of heavy pollution in China, which is a fact. However, China is not employing the modern technologies for emission controls as is done, for instance, in Europe and the US.

It should be remembered that London had terrible coal emission problems years ago which has been cleaned up significantly.

We would suggest that the experts who have influence in the selection of generating units arrange to visit manufacturers and operators of modern coal-burning plants operating at very low emission levels and familiarise themselves with the technology.

I see no reason why a coal plant should not be utilised by the bauxite industry and the construction plans of the Chinese in Jamaica. As I understand it, the proposed site for the power plant will not be at Goat Islands but further inland in the industrial zone. The bottom line is that the potential impact of emissions and hazardous solids can be managed.

Hylton Daley

Boiler specialist

St Andrew

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