Monday, May 5, 2008

Market Benefits of On-Line Coal Analysis

A number of market challenges are associated with continued electricity generation from coal in the US, such as increasing coal consumption and increasing costs of coal as fuel. Commercially viable technology improvements may be leveraged to enable coal-fired power plants to address such challenges. Through strategically planned technology implementation projects, individual power plants can achieve an increase in overall generation and operational efficiency, thereby reducing coal consumption. My paper focuses on a preliminary study of the adoption of one such commercially available technology: Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA) for on-line coal analysis. Efficiency improvements gained from implementing this technology at the individual plant level can be translated to meeting the associated challenges of the coal-fired electric power sector. The results of my study determine whether a sector-wide cost-benefit analysis of the implementation of on-line coal analyzers should be recommended.

Due to the preliminary nature of the study and confidentiality of plant operations data, the benefits can only be predicted qualitatively. A quantitative benefits analysis is not within the scope of my study.

My preliminary study concludes that the addition of on-line coal analyzers in a coal-fired generation plant’s coal-handling operations results in significant improvements in overall plant operations. Benefits are realized in the areas of supply chain management through contract surveillance, and boiler optimization, emissions control, and coal blending through enhanced coal quality assessment. The resulting optimizations and cost savings contribute directly to overall plant efficiency. The possibility of realizing such benefits across the coal-fired electric power sector as a whole merits further investigation. Therefore, a detailed quantitative cost-benefit analysis and life-cycle cost estimation study is recommended for individual plants, and this sector as a whole.

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