Insights from the CoalTech2051 workshop in Katowice, Poland

Image: Jaworzno III Power Plant, Beemwej from Wikimedia Commons

The IEA Clean Coal Centre is one of the partners in the project CoalTech2051: European coal research in light of EU policy objectives to 2050 and future global trends in coal use. The other partners in this RFCS (Research Fund for Coal and Steel) project are EURACOAL, GIG and CERTH.

One of the aims of CoalTech2051 is to develop a strategic research agenda to help establish the future research priorities of the RFCS Programme. It also promotes results from RFCS-funded projects and is establishing a European Network of Clean Coal Technologists.

A second CoalTech2051 workshop was held on 6-7 March at the Central Mining Institute (Główny Instytut Górnictwa) in Katowice as part of the project. It began with a visit to the Jaworzono III power plant. The 910 MW ultrasupercritical coal-fired unit, due to be commissioned in November 2019, will have an efficiency of 45.91%, making it one of the most efficient steam power plants in Europe.

This workshop provided an international outlook for the 60 plus delegates. Dr Andrew Minchener described research and technological development (RTD) work beyond Europe including high efficiency low emission (HELE) power plants and ongoing improvements to them. Developments in integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plants, fuel cells and supercritical CO2 cycles as an alternative to Rankine cycles was touched on. Dr Minchener gave a second presentation on global RTD on coal gasification. The resulting gas can be used to generate direct power (IGCC), indirect power (fuel cells), chemicals, future fuels and other products. China has a major coal-to-X industry. Coal gasification was discussed in several of the presentations. For example, PGG in Poland is looking at constructing a coal gasification plant to produce methanol from low quality coal and waste. Turkey has several pilot-scale coal gasification projects for gasifying their low grade lignites to produce different end products. Coal gasification could possibly provide a ‘big ticket’ clean coal project for the EU.

There was an interesting talk from IChPW on a project for methanation of CO2 to produce SNG, which can then be compressed and used to fuel cars or sent to the gas grid. Other presentations discussed a new perspective on strategic research for coal under the RFCS programme, future developments in the field of RFCS, research and innovation in the coking coal industry and repurposing coal power plants during the energy transition. I gave a presentation on the recovery of metals and rare earth elements from coal. This ended the morning session.

In the afternoon delegates discussed where they see RTD going in Europe and elsewhere. The session was very stimulating with a number of viewpoints put forward.

Presentations from this workshop will be available shortly on the CoalTech2051 website