7,000 Utility Coal-fired Power Plants Are Continuing to Upgrade and Replace

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Source: The McIlvaine Company

The market to upgrade and replace components in the existing 7,000 coal-fired power plants is larger than the new equipment market for wind, solar, or gas turbines. The upgrades and replacements are tracked in the Utility Tracking System published by the McIlvaine Company.

Many of the power plants in the U.S. are more than 40 years old but are expected to operate another 20 years. Optimization systems can improve efficiency, reduce greenhouse gases and save fuel. The payback is often measured in months and not years or decades. So, even if the expected remaining life is 10 years or less, investment is warranted.

In many instances, the remaining life is determined by the upgrade investment costs. McIlvaine has been conducting three webinars for a large utility to determine whether optimization systems can reduce NOx sufficiently to meet new regional haze requirements. The alternative is expensive selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems. Siemens, GE and Emerson have made presentations showing how substantial NOx reductions can be maintained by combining predictive models, advanced instrumentation and results based tuning.

The Utility Tracking System also tracks upgrades of utility water systems. Power plants in the U.S. must make adjustments to limit harm to aquatic life at water intakes. These same power plants must also now meet new wastewater emission standards. Many power plants around the world are opting for zero liquid discharge (ZLD) systems. This requires major investments in evaporators, crystallizers, membrane separators and mechanical vapor recompression.

The drought in India and water shortages in many countries are resulting in the use of treated municipal wastewater. Most power plants are within 70 miles of a municipal wastewater plant. The treatment costs to make this water usable by the utility are modest, so if water is valued, the investment can be justified.

The average power plant is only 40 percent efficient. The steam plume visible from the stack and cooling tower are testimony to the large quantity of wasted heat. Sorbent injection and air preheater extension investment can be justified with payback within a year or two.

Air pollution regulations are not static. There is a new round of regulations at least once a decade. New pollutants such as mercury now have to be reduced as well as the traditional acid gases and particulate. The Utility Tracking System tracks all the upgrades in a database with details on each plant. A weekly 10 to 20-page alert covers new developments.

For more information click on 42EI Utility Tracking System.

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