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New coal-red power stations off the back burner

ENERGY COMPANIES are preparing to announce construction of new coal-fired power stations in the UK, the ICE Energy Board predicted this week.

'Energy companies are going to announce new coal stations, ' said Energy Board chairman David Kerr. He said that many existing plants will be retrofitted with more efcient technologies. 'There is a case for replacing coal-power stations with new more efficient boilers, ' Kerr said.

Coal accounts for 17% of the current energy mix but many of the power stations are old and inefficient and ready to be replaced.

The new supercritical boiler is 47% efficient, compared with the old subcritical boilers that are at best 38% efficient, averaging 33% on their 40 to 50 year lifetime, said Mitsui Babcock director of technology and engineering Les King. A more efficient plant produces less gaseous emissions.

Feasibility studies for two retro-fitted installations of new boilers are underway, the first by RWE npower for its plant at Tilbury and the second for Scottish and Southern Energy's Ferrybridge plant.

Kings said that retro-fitting the new boilers can take as little as three years, whereas the design and build of a whole new coal power station can take anything from 10 to 20 years.

Because of the availability of coal in the UK Kerr said that there may be a future for coal gasification in Britain.

Gasification is the process of burning coal in the right conditions to create gas and is popular in South Africa where there is no gas but vast amounts of coal.

It is possible to create a carbonfree synthetic natural gas.

The Department of Trade and Industry earlier this year completed a study into the feasibility of underground coal gasication under the Firth of Forth and decided it could be used.

Jon Young Coal: back in the mix?

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