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Interview: Stephan Nel from Thermo Fisher Scientific

Stephan discusses the importance of coal analysis and the latest technology developments.

Thermo Fisher Scientific analyses coal at both ends of the supply chain, at the mine and at the power station. Are there differences in the processes for each area?

Yes there are slight differences. The measurement technique is the same but the requirements at the power station is to monitor incoming coal quality and blending of coal to the boiler bunkers. The requirement at the producer is to supply coal at a pre determined and contractually agreed quality level and minimize risks associated with out of spec penalties. In addition, at the mine the analyzer could be used to monitor critical processes such as de watering screens, Magnetic Separators, DMS (Dense Medium Separation) & HMS (Heavy Medium Separation) efficiency to ensure coal is washed at correct density producing coal on spec. The analyzer could also be used prior to a CHPP (Coal Handling and Prep Plant) to determine if raw coal meets specifications and then bypass the CHPP, or not, reducing operational costs associated with the washing process.  

How can coal analysis help to optimize operations in each of these areas? 

The largest cost for a coal fired power plant is the coal itself.  Initiatives to reduce this cost should be an ongoing plan of action for any coal fired power plant.  An effective way to reduce costs can be achieved through proper blending of various coals.  Thermo Fisher Scientific simply refers to this as “Fuel Flexibility”.  With today’s complex coal market, higher quality coals are not as abundant as seen in previous years.  In addition, lower quality fuels are more readily available and less costly.  By blending various qualities of coals, while still maintaining the quality that is specified by the boiler design, utilities can quite significantly reduce the fuel costs. Online Analysis can assist the utility with a more pro-active approach by controlling the coal quality and maximizing the usage of lower quality, less expensive coals.

At the mine site the ability to bypass the CHPP resulting in reduced operating costs and the reduction or elimination of penalties associated with “out of spec” coal are the main drivers for utilizing online elemental analysis systems. 

Coal-fired power plants are becoming subjected to ever more stringent environmental regulations. How can coal analysis help to ensure compliance with these restrictions?

Heat rate improvements result in the reduction of C02 emissions. It has been proven to be the most cost effective and immediately available control process for lowering C02. A 1% heat rate reduction results in a 1% C02 reduction, or approx 40k ton/year for a 500Mw power station. In addition heat rate reductions contribute towards decreasing So2 and Nox ( Sulfur Dioxide & Nitrogen Oxides) which helps plants meet other emission compliance requirements.
Environmental regulations were acted on forcing many utilities to retro-fit energy consuming pollution control equipment such as FGD (Flue Gas Desulfurization) systems. The negative impact this had was an increase in auxiliary power consumption with a decrease in boiler efficiency. The situation was further exacerbated with the addition of ESP’s to remove particulate matter from the gas prior to exhausting to the stack. This caused a pressure drop forcing the exhaust fans to work harder resulting in an increase in auxiliary power consumption. Blending coal types with different levels of pollutant helps power stations meet and exceed emission compliance requirements and possible reductions in auxiliary power consumption.  

Your roundtables at this year’s Coaltrans Japan and Coaltrans Emerging Asian Coal Markets will focus on the importance of coal analysis when increasing coal imports. What role does coal analysis have to play in this region?

Today’s global economic growth fuels demand for coal producers and consumers to be able to serve customers with different, quality needs, and provide boilers with the correct fuel to match the load. However, at the same time, enhanced pressures to use the earth’s finite resources more efficiently are present.  The need to produce power, in high volumes efficiently, while closely controlling waste, cost and environmental impact, has never been more critical to the industry. In today’s complex coal market, operators of coal fired power plants must be ready for different types of coals that they haven’t utilized before.  For applications such as sorting the incoming coals to blending of the coal to the bunkers, online analysis provides the ultimate solution.  Ensuring that the boilers are fed a consistent coal quality, efficiency of the boilers can increase leading to increased profitability for the end user.  Increasing boiler efficiencies can lead to reduced coal consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, less maintenance and d-rating issues. This drive towards higher production at higher efficiencies has led coal suppliers and consumers to increasingly use innovative technologies within their processes.  One such unique technology is continuous, raw material elemental analysis, using Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis or PGNAA for short.

What is the biggest development in coal analysis technology in the last 5 years?

The CQM FLEX is the next generation in the highly successful CQM product line.  The CQM FLEX incorporates the best of the original CQM and adds additional advantages.  The “FLEX” in the CQM provides the end user with the ability to use the traditional Cf-252 neutron source or the option to use a neutron generator to supply the neutrons. This feature is unique to the CQM FLEX and it is the only analyser, globally, providing customers with the choice of neutron source.  The neutron generator option allows the user to turn off the Neutron generator when required whereas the CF-252 is a continuously emitting neutron generator. In addition to this feature the Neutron accelerator option provides measurement of Carbon and Oxygen in addition to the normal ash constituents measured by the CF-252 version.   The CQM FLEX has the ability to measure and report the following:

  • Total Moisture
  • Ash         (including the following elements:  Fe, Si, Ca, Al, Ti, K, and Na)
  • Sulfur
  • Calorific Value       (Gross and Net)
  • SO2
  • CO2
  • Nitrogen
  • Chlorine
  • Carbon
  • Hydrogen
  • Oxygen
  • Volatile Matter
  • Fixed Carbon
  • Ash Fusion Temperature
  • Base/Acid Ratio
  • Fuel Ratio
  • Fouling/Slagging Index

This content is provided by Coaltrans Conferences for informational purposes only, and it reflects the market and industry conditions and presenter’s opinions and affiliations available at the time of the presentation.

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