Re-Use of Coal Plants for Decarbonization

According to the authors of a study released in late December, out of 2 TWe of coal power plant capacity in operation globally today, more than half is less than 14 years old. Climate policy related to limiting CO2-emissions makes the longer-term operation of these plants untenable. So the authors conducted an assessment of a range of available options for future  “retrofits” that would maximize re-use of both equipment and jobs while reducing or eliminating emissions.

Decarbonization retrofits considered included carbon capture, fuel conversion, and the replacement of coal boilers with new low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear reactors. They used the Polish coal power fleet as a case study. The most appealing decarbonization retrofits found for Poland turned out to be converting the plant to advanced nuclear power by using high-temperature small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to replace coal boilers. This type of retrofit lowered upfront capital costs by ~28–35% and levelized cost of electricity by 9–28% compared to a greenfield installation. Their analysis showed that If this type of retrofit were implemented globally by the late 2020s, up to 200 billion tons of otherwise-committed CO2-emissions could be avoided.

Read more at “Retrofit Decarbonization of Coal Plants—A Case Study for Poland,” by Staffan Qvist, Pawel Gladysz, Lukasz Bartela and Anna Sowiżdżał, who have published their work under the Creative Commons license for open access.