Reducing water freshwater consumption at coal-fired power plants : approaches used outside the United States.

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Coal-fired power plants consume huge quantities of water, and in some water-stressed areas, power plants compete with other users for limited supplies. Extensive use of coal to generate electricity is projected to continue for many years. Faced with increasing power demands and questionable future supplies, industries and governments are seeking ways to reduce freshwater consumption at coal-fired power plants. As the United States investigates various freshwater savings approaches (e.g., the use of alternative water sources), other countries are also researching and implementing approaches to address similar - and in many cases, more challenging - water supply and demand issues. Information ... continued below

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Elcock, D. May 9, 2011.

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Coal-fired power plants consume huge quantities of water, and in some water-stressed areas, power plants compete with other users for limited supplies. Extensive use of coal to generate electricity is projected to continue for many years. Faced with increasing power demands and questionable future supplies, industries and governments are seeking ways to reduce freshwater consumption at coal-fired power plants. As the United States investigates various freshwater savings approaches (e.g., the use of alternative water sources), other countries are also researching and implementing approaches to address similar - and in many cases, more challenging - water supply and demand issues. Information about these non-U.S. approaches can be used to help direct near- and mid-term water-consumption research and development (R&D) activities in the United States. This report summarizes the research, development, and deployment (RD&D) status of several approaches used for reducing freshwater consumption by coal-fired power plants in other countries, many of which could be applied, or applied more aggressively, at coal-fired power plants in the United States. Information contained in this report is derived from literature and Internet searches, in some cases supplemented by communication with the researchers, authors, or equipment providers. Because there are few technical, peer-reviewed articles on this topic, much of the information in this report comes from the trade press and other non-peer-reviewed references. Reducing freshwater consumption at coal-fired power plants can occur directly or indirectly. Direct approaches are aimed specifically at reducing water consumption, and they include dry cooling, dry bottom ash handling, low-water-consuming emissions-control technologies, water metering and monitoring, reclaiming water from in-plant operations (e.g., recovery of cooling tower water for boiler makeup water, reclaiming water from flue gas desulfurization [FGD] systems), and desalination. Some of the direct approaches, such as dry air cooling, desalination, and recovery of cooling tower water for boiler makeup water, are costly and are deployed primarily in countries with severe water shortages, such as China, Australia, and South Africa. Table 1 shows drivers and approaches for reducing freshwater consumption in several countries outside the United States. Indirect approaches reduce water consumption while meeting other objectives, such as improving plant efficiency. Plants with higher efficiencies use less energy to produce electricity, and because the greater the energy production, the greater the cooling water needs, increased efficiency will help reduce water consumption. Approaches for improving efficiency (and for indirectly reducing water consumption) include increasing the operating steam parameters (temperature and pressure); using more efficient coal-fired technologies such as cogeneration, IGCC, and direct firing of gas turbines with coal; replacing or retrofitting existing inefficient plants to make them more efficient; installing high-performance monitoring and process controls; and coal drying. The motivations for increasing power plant efficiency outside the United States (and indirectly reducing water consumption) include the following: (1) countries that agreed to reduce carbon emissions (by ratifying the Kyoto protocol) find that one of the most effective ways to do so is to improve plant efficiency; (2) countries that import fuel (e.g., Japan) need highly efficient plants to compensate for higher coal costs; (3) countries with particularly large and growing energy demands, such as China and India, need large, efficient plants; (4) countries with large supplies of low-rank coals, such as Germany, need efficient processes to use such low-energy coals. Some countries have policies that encourage or mandate reduced water consumption - either directly or indirectly. For example, the European Union encourages increased efficiency through its cogeneration directive, which requires member states to assess their national potential for cogeneration, analyze barriers to achieving the potential, and then establish support schemes to achieve the potential. China's Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) has an energy strategy that specifies, among other things, that production should be optimized by promoting the development of large-scale, high-efficiency units, and that air-cooled technologies should be used in areas with water shortages. The United States lacks many of these drivers. There are no government requirements that mandate more efficient plants. The United States has ample supplies of relatively cheap coal, and U.S. water-short areas are not as extensive as in countries such as China, South Africa, and Australia. Often, other countries have deployed water-savings technologies to a greater degree than the United States.

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  • Report No.: DOE/NETL-2011/1493
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-06CH11357
  • DOI: 10.2172/1013332 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1013332
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc846802

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  • May 9, 2011

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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Elcock, D. Reducing water freshwater consumption at coal-fired power plants : approaches used outside the United States., report, May 9, 2011; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc846802/: accessed October 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.