Update from 12th ECCRIA – The European Conference on Fuel and Energy Research

The conference which is organised biannually by the Fuel and Energy Research Forum brings together researchers from universities and industry and those interested in the applications of the research. This year, over 130 papers, in three parallel sessions, were presented on different aspects of coal, biomass and waste combustion.

Biofuels formed a significant part of the conference, with the key note address on the prospects for sustainable bioenergy development in the UK given by Professor Patricia Thornley, Director of the SuperGen BioEnergy Hub. This talk and the following ones on SuperGen, Ser Cymru and other biomass related projects confirmed  that the shift from coal research to biomass is going strong in the UK, where the government plants to phase out unabated coal-fired power plants by 2025. It was interesting to hear about the research from Aberystwyth University into how to grow ‘exotic’ crops such as Miscanthus in the UK to meet the country’s future bioenergy needs.

The coal-related sessions covered many topics including: coal combustion, coal gasification and pyrolysis, oxycombustion, pollution control, modelling, coal and ash characterisation, carbonisation, instrumental methods, CO2 sorbents, cofiring, energy storage and more. With so many interesting talks about detailed research it was hard choosing which ones to attend.  I tried to listen to all those related to the high efficiency, low emission technologies (HELE).

Some very useful overviews were presented, such as the one given by my colleague Toby Lockwood on how coal-based carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects have overcome various technical challenges, as well as the prospects for future CCS deployment in the USA, Europe, and China. Another was given by Yongjian Ye from East China Electric Power Design Institute, who talked about the outlook for Chinese coal-fired electricity generation and solutions used by the country in order to have ultra-low emission and highly efficient plants (up to 48% for a single reheat unit). Renato Zagorščak from Cardiff University, presented on underground coal gasification (UCG) and how modelling could help to manage the associated environmental risks and secure greater public and regulatory support for UCG technology.

There were two site visits. The first one, organised by the International Flame Research Foundation (IFRF), was to the Cardiff University Gas Turbine Research Centre/the Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Power Plant. It consists of two major combustion rigs each designed for detailed investigation of combustion and emissions in gas turbines. The second visit was to Viridor Energy Recovery Facility, which burns about 95% of South Wales’ residual waste and generates 30 MW of electricity for the national grid, which is enough to power about 50,000 households.

Although the increasing role of bioenergy in many countries and the growth of the bio-economy are clear, so is the fact that coal still has a prominent role in the energy mix and research on its applications is going strong as confirmed by the range of presentations from around the world, delivered at ECCRIA.

The conference and its applications, took place on 5 – 7 September 2018, in Cardiff, Wales, UK.