U.S. Department of Energy: Coal FIRST Initiative

U.S. Department of Energy: Coal FIRST Initiative


Guest David Middleton

While we miss Gov. Perry here in Texas, he is doing a great job at the Department of Energy…

Office of Fossil Energy

Energy Department Announces Intent to Fund Research that Advances the Coal Plants of the Future

NOVEMBER 13, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) announced its intent to fund competitive research and development (R&D) efforts in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 that will advance first-of-a-kind coal generation technologies.  This effort—the Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, Transformative) initiative—will develop the coal plant of the future needed to provide secure, stable, and reliable power.  This R&D will underpin coal-fired power plants that are capable of flexible operations to meet the needs of the grid; use innovative and cutting-edge components that improve efficiency and reduce emissions; provide resilient power to Americans; are small compared to today’s conventional utility-scale coal; and will transform how coal technologies are designed and manufactured.

Changes to the U.S. electricity industry are forcing a paradigm shift in how the nation’s generating assets are operated.  Coal-fired power plants optimized as baseload resources are being increasingly relied on as load-following resources to support electricity generated from intermittent renewable capacity, as well as to provide critical ancillary services to the grid.  In addition, wide-scale retirements of the nation’s existing fleet of coal-fired power plants—without replacement—may lead to a significant undermining of the resiliency of America’s electricity supply.  Nevertheless, the need for considerable dispatchable generation, critical ancillary services, and grid reliability—combined with potentially higher future natural gas prices, and energy security concerns, such as the importance of onsite fuel availability during extreme weather events—create the opportunity for advanced coal-fired generation, for both domestic and international deployment.  These fundamental changes to the operating and economic environment in which coal plants function are expected to persist into the next decade and beyond.  Deployment of new coal plants will require a different way of thinking.

To that end, DOE envisions that the future coal fleet may be based on electricity generating units possessing many of the following traits:

  • High overall plant efficiency (40%+ HHV or higher at full load, with minimal reductions in efficiency over the required generation range)
  • Small (unit sizes of approximately 50 to 350 MW), maximizing the benefits of high-quality, low-cost shop fabrication to minimize field construction costs, and project cycletime
  • Near-zero emissions, with options to consider plant designs that inherently emit no or low amounts of carbon dioxide (amounts that are equal to or lower than natural gas technologies) or could be retrofitted with carbon capture without significant plant modifications
  • Capable of high ramprates and minimum loads commensurate with estimates of renewable market penetration by 2050
  • Integration with thermal or other energy storage (e.g., chemical production) to ease intermittency inefficiencies and equipment damage
  • Minimized water consumption
  • Reduced design, construction, and commissioning schedules from conventional norms by leveraging techniques including but not limited to advanced process engineering and parametric design methods for modular design
  • Enhanced maintenance features including technology advances with monitoring and diagnostics to reduce maintenance and minimize forced outages
  • Integration with coal upgrading, or other plant value streams (e.g., co-production)
  • Capable of natural gas co-firing.

In FY 2019, DOE plans to issue three competitively-funded R&D efforts, which may ultimately culminate in the design, construction, and operation of a coal-based pilot-scale power plant.  These efforts—informed by a Request for Information that DOE issued in May 2018—are as follows:

1.  A Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking conceptual design for coal-based power plants of the future and an option to conduct a preliminary front end engineering design (Pre-FEED).  To achieve this end, DOE encourages broad teaming arrangements that engage A/E firms, technology developers, equipment manufacturers, and end users.  The solicitation is anticipated to be issued in November 2018.

2.  A Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for cost-shared research and development R&D projects focused on steam turbines that can be integrated into a 50-350 MW future advanced coal plant design.  The FOA is anticipated to be issued in the second quarter of fiscal year 2019.

3.  A FOA for cost-shared R&D projects focused on critical components and advanced approaches (e.g., manufacturing, fabrication, advanced design) that are needed to support a future coal plant.  This FOA is expected to have two closings.  The objectives and scope of the first closing will be informed by the conceptual designs completed under contracts awarded under the RFP.Likewise, the objectives and scope of the second closing will be informed by the Pre-FEED studies completed under contracts awarded under the RFP.  The FOA is anticipated to be issued in the third quarter of FY 2019.

The Coal FIRST initiative will make coal-fired power plants in the future more adaptive to the modern electrical grid.  The initiative will integrate early-stage R&D on power plant components with currently available technologies into a first-of-a-kind system.  Through innovative technologies and advanced approaches to design and manufacturing, the initiative will look beyond today’s utility-scale power plant concepts (e.g. base-load units) in ways that integrate with the electrical grid in the United States and internationally.

Read the full synopsis, Reference Number 89243319RFE000015, here.

U.S. Department of Energy

Why on Earth would the Department of Energy be willing to fund advanced coal-fired power plants?  Because coal’s not going away anytime in the near future…

Nov 15, 2018

Global Coal Demand Increased In 2017

Jude Clemente

Even with the Paris climate accords signed in late-2015, global coal demand in 2017 rose for the first time in two years, as reported by the Paris-based International Energy Agency during its annual World Energy Outlook release week.

We energy-saturated Westerners, of course, have a hard time understanding this.


Although a little known secret, even the great switch to renewables will mean more coal. Coal is an integral component for 70% of global steel production, and via steel, “There’s about 150 tonnes of metallurgical coal via steel in an onshore windmill – and 250 tonnes of coal in an offshore one.

Geology surely will not stop coal. In terms of proven coal reserves alone, Asia and the world have an 80 and 135 year supply, respectively – with the resource much larger.


Moroever, as these emerging economies build out their transportation fleets, the goal for more electric vehicles will make coal power even more vital. Globally, IEA projects that there could be over 900 million electric cars in the world by 2040, helping all sources of electricity.

It is actually a very simple concept: IEA sees a 60% surge in global power demand by 2040, so obviously coal, the main source of electricity, should be expected to grow.

As far as the lack of money that was supposed to kill coal, the banks are not cutting coal funding nearly as much as some claim. In fact, BankTrack.org finds that bank financing for coal did drop in 2016 right after the signing of the Paris Climate Accord only to go back up again in 2017. From 2015-2017, 35 major banks that BankTrack followed had financed $52 billion for coal mining and $94 billion for coal electricity projects.

The focus must be on evolving technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the world. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy wants to fund competitive research and development efforts that will advance first-of-a-kind coal generation technologies. Since our own coal demand has peaked, this effort would surely help others “use coal cleaner.”

Realizing the practicality of more coal, large-scale and affordable Carbon Capture and Storage has long been at the center of IEA’s Technology Roadmap to meet climate goals.


The really cool thing about “large-scale and affordable Carbon Capture and Storage” is that small-scale Carbon Capture and Storage can turn 100 bbl/d into 3,000 bbl/d in a matter of a few months…

Bye, by war on coal!


Superforest,Climate Change

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