Clean Coal Will Dominate the Near Term

Issue 10 and Volume 100.

Clean Coal Will Dominate the Near Term

By Howard Feibus, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy

Not only is coal our primary domestic energy resource, it is also the fuel used to produce more than half the electricity generated in the United States today. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that coal will continue to supply more than half the electricity generated for at least the next 20 years (this is as far into the future as EIA projections go). Most people want electricity to be easily accessible at a low price, and most people want clean air, but few are aware that both of these goals are compatible with the widespread use of coal. To ensure coal`s role as a source of clean, economical, electricity, a new generation of systems is under development with strong support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The objectives of this ambitious program are:

To accomplish these objectives, the DOE is sponsoring the development of a low-emission boiler system, a high-performance power system, an advanced pressurized fluidized bed combustion system, integrated gasification-combined-cycle systems (IGCC) and integrated gasification-fuel cell combined-cycle systems. (For more information, readers are invited to contact the author directly.) These systems are not only long on promise, but have been under development since DOE was formed in 1979.

Turning now to projections for the future, which after all is what this article is about, three first-of-a-kind IGCCs will be operational at commercial scale by the end of 1996. Ranging in size from 100 to 250 MW, these systems will be the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plants operating in this country. As impressive as these achievements are, the ambitious objectives listed above will be accomplished in the next two decades by completing on-going developmental programs that are presently under way at DOE and integrating them into the first-of-a-kind systems that are now coming on line. What does this mean for our future? It means as demand for electricity continues to grow, the associated emissions will decline, along with costs.

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Dr. Howard Feibus is Coal R&D`s associate deputy assistant secretary, where he is responsible for managing the department`s programs to develop advanced coal-fired high-efficiency power systems and clean transportation fuels from coal. He is also responsible for projects involving assistance to eastern Europe and N.I.S. in the area of improved environmental performance of coal-fired systems.

Dr. Feibus had been with the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), a predecessor to the DOE, since its establishment in 1975.

From 1970 to 1974, he served as manager of physical studies with Consolidated Edison of New York where he managed the company`s R&D programs in transmission distribution and energy storage. From 1961 to 1970, he studied dielectric phenomena and worked for Bell Telephone Labs in the Power Systems Laboratory where he was responsible for development of new electrical insulation systems.

Dr. Feibus received a bachelor`s of science degree in physics from Brandeis University in 1959, a master`s of science degree in engineering mechanics from Pennsylvania State University in 1961 and a doctorate degree in physics from New York University in 1967.