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Coal to be given a chance as a clean fuel

As debates over the Kyoto protocol between Alberta and the rest of Canada grind on, progress is already being made...


As debates over the Kyoto protocol between Alberta and the rest of Canada grind on, progress is already being made in finding new cleaner power technologies. One of the most exciting involves an old fuel – coal.
A team of engineering firms is working on the conceptual engineering and feasibility studies for building power plants that will burn coal — but with near zero air emissions.
The government of Saskatchewan recently contributed $330,000 to the Canadian Clean Power Coalition proposing to build the plants. The coalition is an association of coal and coal-fired electricity producers such as ATCO, EPCOR, Ontario Power, SaskPower, etc. Federal funding is also helping the project,which is costing $5 million in the feasibility stage. Once under way, the project is expected to cost $1 billion over 10 years.
The plan is to build two demonstration plants, in locations yet to be decided. The first, slated for 2007, will be a retrofit of an existing coal-fired plant, and the second, slated for 2010, will be a new, or greenfield, plant. Fluor, Neill and Gunter, SNC-Lavalin, and the Geological Survey of Canada, have been hired to do the research and development to decide on what technology will be used in the demonstration plants.
The kind of options they will consider include supercritical pulverized coal, ultra-supercritical pulverized coal, pressurized fluidized bed combustion, integrated gasification combined cycle and advanced gasification options.
Carbon dioxide extraction technologies options include a mine scrubbing, carbon dioxide/oxygen combustion and extraction from synthetic gas in gasification options.
Coal represents 91% of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves and is expected to last another 200 years. Canada has its own vast coalfields; presently 75% of electricity in Alberta is generated from coal. However, using the fuel for power generation creates air problems because of the particulates and other emissions.
The technologies now being studied should eliminate these emissions, including mercury emissions.
Meanwhile, a renewable power technology that is already past the experimental stages is starting to take off in Canada. The first commercial wind farm in Ontario is being built. (There are already wind farms in Alberta and Quebec.)
Five turbines arrived on the shore of Lake Huron in Owen Sound in September, from where they will be shipped to a wind farm site about 45 kilometres south.
The turbines will produce 9 megawatts, enough to power 3,000 Ontario homes. The so-called Huron Wind project is a partnership between Ontario Power Generation and British Energy. The wind farm is located near the Bruce Power nuclear generating stations of which British Energy is the majority partner.