Coal fosters rail mergers/The great gremlin attack

Issue 4 and Volume 99.


R.C. Rittenhouse,

Managing Editor

Coal fosters rail mergers/The great gremlin attack

A variety of fuel transportation and handling topics appear in this month?s special feature (see page 27). Not included is the major transportation issue of moving more western coals over ever increasing distances. Dwain F. Spencer, SIMTECHE principal, explains the expanding role of low sulfur western coals: OAs power plants seek lower cost approaches to meet 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment SO2 emission control requirements, the demand for low sulfur western coals will skyrocket.O Wyoming and Montana coals gain most attention. Of the 65,000 MW of coal units requiring SO2 compliance, approximately 51,000 MW will be switched to low sulfur Appalachian or Powder River Basin coals. Only 14,000 will be retrofit with flue gas control systems.

Projections see demand rising for Powder River Basin coals from 200 million tons in 1991 to more than 250 million tons in 1995 and to more than 300 million tons by 2005. Currently, low sulfur Wyoming coal, delivered as far away as Indiana, is directly competitive on a cost per million Btu bases with high sulfur local bituminous coals. Greater market potential for compliance coal will create new demands for long rail shipments via the chief western railroads (i.gif., Burlington Northern, Union Pacific and Santa Fe). ONo wonder merger talks between railroad giants is at such a high pitch,O said Spencer. OThe continued expanded movement of low sulfur compliance coals, west to east, is at the heart of their growth projections.O

In addition, private companies and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sponsor various approaches for upgrading these coals to near bituminous grade. Such processing methods can reduce coal moisture content from near 30 percent to 1 percent-10 percent. Hence, this sharply reduces raw tonnage being shipped. Further, the processed coal heating value can be increased to 10,500 Btu/lb to 12,000 Btu/lb, from a minemouth value of approximately 8,400 Btu/lb, depending on the process used. At least two major low-rank coal processing systems operate at, or greater than, 1,000 tons per day coal throughput (Encoal and SynCoal). Another system, the AMAX drying system, operates at approximately 5,000 tons per day. Smaller scale systems under development include the K-Fuels, Aggflowtherm and Carbontec processes. All processed products experience some problems associated with fines handling, production, spontaneous combustion and high processing costs. However, all of these processes become more competitive with direct use of low rank coal and high-sulfur bituminous coals as transportation distances increase. They may provide the basis for western coals to reach the eastern seaboard in the future, if they can be produced at satisfactory upgrading costs.

National Coal Council and gremlins

Dwain Spencer and others liked the report on the National Coal Council?s valuable work that appeared in the December OEnvironmentally Speaking.O However, the closing paragraph of that column mystified him and other readers. The paragraph had nothing to do with the balance of the report. Some research solved the mystery. Printing production OgremlinsO (that?s a World War II Army Air Corps term) picked up material from another report. Here is that other report:

Richard L. Lawson, National Mining Association (NMA) president, discussed the DOE Clean Coal Technology (CCT) program during the Tenth International Conference on Coal Research in Brisbane, Australia. (Note: The National Coal Association recently merged with the American Mining Congress to become NMA.)

Lawson explained that almost all of the technologies are meant to lower power plant emissions, to reduce the cost of lowering emissions, and to raise generating efficiencies. He noted that the CCT program, planned as a $5 billion effort, actually raised $7 billion through the close of solicitations. It had been a venture in cost sharing and industry, and non-federal participation is 60 percent, or $4 billion, higher than anticipated. ONo one invests money on this scale simply because matching dollars are there,O he said, O… the General Accounting Office this year reported to Congress that the CCT program could serve as a model for future efforts to advance other technologies; that it has been a model of good management and flexibility; and that it is notably free of the usual political and fiscal missteps of big initiatives.O

By the way, the DOE and the Electric Power Research Institute have signed a OSustainable Electric PartnershipO agreement for significantly expanded collaboration and communication between the two organizations. The agreement enhances the benefits of shared research addressing complex technological and operational changes facing the power generation industry.

Environmental benefits

Pennsylvania stands to benefit from one technology that developed a new fuel made from readily available waste products. The fuel, known as E-Fuel, tested successfully on a commercial scale at the S.W. Jack cogeneration facility on the grounds of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The product burned cleaner than coal, which is this boiler?s normal feedstock.

CQ Inc.?s E-Fuel for this test burn included fine coal, processed biosolids, newsprint, lime and proprietary ingredients compacted into briquettes. This form avoids handling and combustion problems usually faced when such materials are simply mixed with coal and fed to boilers.

Estimates indicate that total capital cost of a 30-tons per hour commercial E-Fuel facility that can feed an industrial boiler is $4.6 million. Annual operating and maintenance costs are $4.3 million. Selling price of delivered E-Fuel briquettes is $42 per ton compared to $45 per ton for Pennsylvania stoker coal. END