Use of Refined Coal Growing in U.S. Power Generation

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By Editors of Power Engineering

The gradual shift toward burning refined coal in power generation continues, at least in the United States.

According to the latest research by the Energy Information Administration, power sector coal consumption reached 17 percent in 2016. In 2017 so far, that consumption has increased to 19 percent.

Refined coal has been processed to remove certain pollutants from raw, or feedstock, coal. Electricity generators fueled by refined coal can produce fewer emissions than those fueled by feedstock coal alone.

Refined coal is most commonly made by mixing proprietary additives to feedstock coal. These additives contain a mixture of halogens such as bromine or chlorine and metals to increase the production of mercury oxides. Oxidized mercury can be captured by using mercury emission reduction technologies such as flue gas desulfurization scrubbers and particulate matter control systems. Oxidized mercury can also be adsorbed by powder activated carbon injection and captured by particulate matter control systems.

The tax credit for refined coal has risen with inflation and has grown from $6.81 per short ton last year to $6.91 today.

To qualify for the refined coal tax credit, producers must have a qualified professional engineer demonstrate that burning the refined coal results in a 20 percent emissions reduction of nitrogen oxide and a 40 percent emissions reduction of either sulfur dioxide or mercury compared with the emissions that would result from burning feedstock coal.

The producer must demonstrate the achievable emissions reductions every six months to continue using the tax credit, and they can only qualify for the tax for the first 10 years the processing facility is in service. Any facilities currently claiming the refined coal tax credit must have been in service by December 2011.

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