Southern announces coal-burning reactor
The Southern Co. has announced successful burning of coal in a transport reactor, calling it a “major advance toward using America`s most abundant fuel to make electricity more cleanly and cheaply.” The feat was accomplished at the Power Systems Development Facility on Southern Co.`s site in Wilsonville, Ala. The facility is co-funded by Southern, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute, M.W. Kellogg, Foster Wheeler, Westinghouse, Industrial Filter and Pump, Combustion Power Co. and other industrial technology sponsors. A transport reactor uses a combination of high internal pressure and recirculation to burn fuel more efficiently than a conventional power plant.
“Transport reactor technology has been used for a number of years in petroleum refining, but this is the first time coal has been burned in a transport reactor on a practical scale,” said Charles H. Goodman, Southern Company Services vice president. “The notion that we can use this technology for commercial generation of electricity has gone from futuristic to near-future.”
The transport reactor is one of several technologies being tested at Wilsonville that could allow new or refitted power plants to make the same amount of electricity as conventional plants while burning one-third less coal. In the next several years, researchers at the facility will also study new methods of removing dust, SO2 and NOx from coal combustion gases. Other technologies to be tested include the transport reactor operating as a coal gasifier; a second-generation Foster Wheeler circulating pressurized fluidized-bed combustor; advanced dust removal systems designed by Westinghouse, Combustion Power and Industrial Filter and Pump; and fuel cells.
The transport reactor currently operates as a coal combustor, consuming 12 tons of coal a day, while operating at 10 times atmospheric pressure and 1,600 F.