Asian Sub-Bituminous Coal Users’ Group Formed

Over the past 11 years, the Powder River Basin Coal Users’ Group (PRBCUG) has grown to become the voice of North American generating companies that are dedicated to the safe and efficient use of PRB coal. POWER, the group’s media sponsor, has reported on the PRBCUG’s annual meetings, which are colocated with the ELECTRIC POWER Conference & Exhibition each year. POWER also reports annually on the group’s coal plant of the year award. For 2011, in the large plant category the award went to Kansas City Power & Light’s Iatan Unit 2 (see our August 2011 issue); the small plant category winner, Muscatine Power & Water, is profiled in this issue, beginning on page 56.

Members discuss and trade insights concerning the safe and efficient handling and burning of PRB coal during their three-and-a-half-day annual meeting. Another goal of the group is to educate future users about the peculiarities of PRB coal. The multi-day forum is highly interactive and designed to network peers so that industry lessons learned are shared. Today, the typical PRBCUG annual meeting will have about 400 attendees.

Linking SBC Users

North America is not the only region where subbituminous coal (SBC) is available. In fact, many coal-fired power plants in Asia are or wish to become users of SBC, such as that found in Indonesia, for the same reasons as North American users: lower NOx and SO2 emissions levels.

To begin a discussion of how to handle SBC coals in other parts of the world, POWER and the PRBCUG, acting as the lead conference organizers, cooperated to bring more than 200 Asian SBC users together for two days in early November at Hong Kong’s Harbour Grand Hotel for the inaugural meeting of the Asian Sub-Bituminous Coal Users’ Group (ASBC, Figure 5).

5. ASBC inaugural meeting. The first annual meeting of the Asian Sub-Bituminous Coal Users’ Group was held November 1 and 2, 2011, in Hong Kong. For more information on the next meeting, visit Source: POWER

The founding members of the ASBC are the major users of SBC in Asia: CLP Group (a Hong Kong electric company with plants in Asia and Australia); Hong Kong Electric Co., Ltd. (HK Electric); Taiwan Power Co.; Korea South-East Power Co., Ltd.; and Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB, the largest electric utility in Malaysia). A Steering Council, represented by senior management of the ASBC founding members and one representative from the PRBCUG executive committee, is providing leadership and direction for the group.

S.S. Yuen, director of operations for HK Electric (ASBC co-host with CLP Power) called the first meeting a “landmark event” for Asian companies that use SBC coal to produce electricity. “In Asia, we notice that a number of coal-fired power stations, like the founding members of this Asian SBC Users’ Group, have been increasing their consumption of subbituminous coals due to its low sulfur and low ash content properties, which have positive impacts on emissions,” Yuen said in his opening comments to the conference. “However, there are some concerns over the operational risks of using SBC. Being responsible operators, we shall all look for best practices in the industry and keep pace with the latest technology development in the uses of SBC.

“In this context, we fully support that an SBC users’ group should be formed in the Asia region to promote the safe, efficient, and economic use of subbituminous coals. The Asian SBC Users’ Group will definitely be an excellent forum for all Asian operators to learn from each other through a web-based forum and annual meetings.”

Yuen then identified the decade of work by the PRBCUG to develop procedures for ensuring safe and efficient use of SBC, and the group’s willingness to share lessons learned, as key reasons the ASBC was formed. “I was told by my colleagues who had participated in the last two conference meetings in Baltimore and Chicago that the conference meetings were very good and useful. Our colleagues were very impressed with the presentations made by the participants who selflessly shared their experiences in handling subbituminous coals, especially during the session for teachable moments. Most of the participants would agree that they were not alone in having bitter experiences in handling subbituminous coal, and they could learn from other generating companies which had taken preventive measures proactively to tackle the problems. I am sure that the good tradition of PRB Coal Users’ Group will be passed on to the Asian SBC Users’ Group, and the Asian experiences would also be beneficial to the PRB Coal Users’ Group in the years to come.”

Paul Poon, chief operating officer of conference cosponsor CLP Power, also expressed his great interest in forming the ASBC because there are many users located across the Pacific Rim that fire the low-sulfur coal. “The group was formed this year with the aim of providing a forum for sharing technical and operational experience amongst Asian power utilities,” he said. “Currently, we have major subbituminous coal users from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia. The group serves as a platform to promote safe handling, storage, and use of subbituminous coal, which is becoming more popular because of environmental concerns.”

Poon also noted the technical challenges facing CLP Power and the other companies represented at the conference when making a switch to SBC. “When switching to subbituminous coal at a plant not originally designed for it, enhancement or retrofits may be needed. The first thing is to improve the coal-handling system because subbituminous coal is prone to spontaneous combustion and is dusty. Preventively, we can provide more fire and coal dust control equipment in our system. Proactively, we can strengthen the coal plant housekeeping and use fuel additives to suppress the spontaneous combustion.”

Good Technical Content

Presenters at the inaugural ASBC meeting included members of the PRBCUG and those working with SBC in Asia. For example, Jasper Tan, manager of coal storage and supply for Taiwan Power Co., presented “The Role of Sub-Bituminous Coal in the Operation of Taichung Power Plant.” He discussed the fuel supply system for his 10-unit coal-fired plant with a nameplate of 5,500 MW that supplies about 20% of TPC’s total generation. The 2.3 million metric ton coal pile is also large scale, covering 170 acres. The plant has been slowly ramping up its use of SBC over the past few years. Tan discussed both challenges (such as air heater plugging) and successes (including lower NOx and SO2 emissions) experienced during the plant’s long-term fuel upgrade program.

Other presentations included “Lamma Power Station Units 4 & 5 Improvement of Boiler Performance and Emission in 2010” by Hong Kong Electric Co., Ltd. and “Experience in Retrofitting Fire and Dust Control Equipment for Coal Unloading Equipment” by CLP. The former presentation discussed the low-NOx burners, mills, and boiler control upgrades added to the plant in order to burn SBC. CLP’s presentation included two detailed case studies that described the utility’s extensive coal-handling system upgrades made to accommodate SBC.

Second Meeting Planned

The ASBC Steering Council is now setting the date and location for the second annual ASBC meeting. Meeting information will soon be posted on the group’s website,

—Contributed by Vice President and POWER Publisher Brian Nessen.

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