A Japanese company has just unveiled the world’s most advanced coal plant.
Osaki CoolGen, a joint-venture owned by Japanese energy giants J-Power and Chugoku Electric Power, has built the world’s first working “integrated coal gasification fuel cell combined cycle (IGFC)” system on the island of Osakikamijima.
The IGFC plant works by roasting coal at almost double the temperature of a conventional system, while simultaneously blasting it with oxygen to turn the solid fuel into gas. The plant also recycles some of the waste heat it produces and feeds this back into power generation. Hydrogen is then extracted from the gas and reacted with oxygen in giant fuel cells to produce electricity.
By making use of these three fuel sources: gasified coal, waste heat and hydrogen, the IGFC is able to extract much more of the energy in coal than was previously posssible. This improved efficiency translates into big carbon savings, with reductions of 40 percent compared to conventional systems.
A CoolGen plant is estimated to cost 20% more than a conventional system. However, with coal selling at half the price of liquefied natural gas – its main competitor for baseload power generation, the system is still significantly cheaper than a new gas plant.
It is likely to be of high interest to coal-rich nations like India, Indonesia, Australia and Poland, which have all committed to use coal for decades to come. India’s Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has argued that upgrading 40GW of Indian coal power with the latest ultra-supercritical technology could deliver more carbon reduction than the country’s entire solar energy programme.
IGFC is the “fruit of Japan’s coal technologies,” CoolGen’s President Kenji Aiso said.