Our unit-specific study will inform new emission reduction policy in Indonesia

In October 2019, the IEA Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC) was awarded significant funds from the US Department of State to work on projects to reduce mercury from the coal utility sector in Southeast Asia. Since then, we have completed the first phase of a project of work in Indonesia.

The IEACCC has been heavily involved in the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Minamata Convention on Mercury, acting as lead of the Coal Partnership Area since 2007. We have been involved in several UNEP inventory-based projects in Indonesia, India, China, Thailand and Vietnam in the past, creating an estimate of mercury emissions from the coal fleet in these regions. However, this is the first project which delves into a unit-by-unit analysis of a national coal fleet, to estimate emissions from each unit now, and over their remaining operating lifetime. These data mean that the coal fleet can be ranked,  to assist in the development of a sectoral action plan which will ensure that mercury emissions are reduced in a cost-effective manner.

Under Article 8 of the Minamata Convention, sectoral stationary sources such as coal must be evaluated (through the development of an inventory of emissions) and emissions should be “controlled and, where feasible, reduced”. The existing coal fleet in Indonesia (over 25 GW of capacity) has until September 2027 to comply with the Convention. Power plants can comply by various means, ranging from setting a reduction target or an emission limit through to installing control technologies. However, in order for any reductions to be achieved, there are really only two options for Indonesia – burn less coal or make the existing fleet burn more cleanly through efficiency improvements and/or emission control technologies. But the existing Indonesian fleet comprises over well over 100 units – retrofitting control technologies on all these units would be expensive and not necessarily cost-effective (since mercury control is very coal and plant specific).

The IEACCC, with the assistance of Uniper and AEA (Atlantic Energy Associates), has evaluated the Indonesian coal sector in detail to determine the most appropriate strategy to reduce mercury emissions across the fleet. We have been working closely with BCRC (Basel Conventional Regional Centre -Asia) who have been liaising with the utility fleet to provide information for this project. Over and above this, we are honoured to have the support of the Ministry for Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

We are proud to say that the results from Phase 1 of this project are complete. The data indicate that there are fewer than 20 units in the existing fleet which, together, contribute almost as much to the lifetime mercury emissions from the fleet as the remainder combined. This information will be incredibly valuable for informing a cost-effective mercury reduction strategy for the country. Targeted emission reduction projects are likely to prove significantly more appropriate for compliance strategies than a blanket control requirement across the whole fleet.

Figure 1, below, shows the predicted mercury emission intensity (g of mercury per GWh) from the existing coal fleet in Indonesia, sorted by size.

The emission intensity varies by over an order of magnitude across the majority of the fleet, with two units indicating mercury emissions of significant concern (largely due to the unusually low overall efficiency of these units). The average mercury emission intensity of the Indonesian fleet is similar to that from US plants in the early 2000s, prior to the introduction of the MATS (Mercury and Air Toxics) rule. The Indonesian coal fleet is therefore no cleaner nor no dirtier than the US fleet once was and could achieve similar success in mercury control. As shown in the Figure above, the mercury emission intensity is not relayed to plant size. Rather, the important factors are a combination of the coal mercury and chlorine content, the unit efficiency, and the amount of coal fired. It is an assessment of these parameters in more detail which will allow the IEACCC and Indonesian Stakeholders to determine a cost-effective strategy and a sensible National Action Plan for mercury control in the Indonesian coal sector under the Minamata Convention.

The results from this Phase 1 work will be presented at our monthly webinar on the 20th of January 2021, sign up here.

We are also organising a three-day on-line event for March 23-25th 2021 to discuss how mercury reduction technology providers can become more involved in Phase 2 of the project. Please save the date.