Co-fire us in to the 21st century

Guest blog by Kevin Daun, MTK311, HT19

Europe is in many aspects doing a great job with green initiative policies being implemented throughout the union, and in doing so keeping and greenhouse gas emission to minimalistic levels. Last year we had the lowest recorded levels as of yet! However, South Eastern Europe (SEE) beingthe highest emitters of and GHG (greenhouse gas) – within Europe – are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, where coal, gas and heavy fuel dominate the regions as primary sources of energy. Seven of the ten most polluting coal-fired power stations is located within SEE, and similar stations areon their way to be implemented by 2030 due to foreign investors (Climate Action Network Europe, 2018). So what could be done to improve the current climate?

A good option that I recently came across is that of a so calledco-firing process within already existing thermal plants. With large thermal units already being used on a daily basisdomestically, there is a major possibility to dramatically improve emissions by integrating co-fire operations with biomass in to these systems. A recent model of a co-fire operation using coal and biomass – which is the most common combination – showed a boiler efficiency of 92% (Rusinowskiet.al, 2012) which is similar to what a “normal” combustion process achieves using only fossil fuels. The good news about this is that most units already have the ability to operate on a co-firing basis, thus incrementally decreasing the need for heavy emitters, while simultaneously keeping production costs extremely low since no new technology i.e. boiler needs producing in order to start this process. Boiler efficiency is a large factor when deciding on power production methods,which makes this is a discovery of great importance to further the cause.

To me it seems as clear cut of a solution as anything. Gaining some energy independence by simply decreasing the amountof imported products by using domestic resources, while simultaneously benefiting by fewer harmful emissions. It is difficult to see why this has not caught on, but a major reason seems to be the “cheap” production cost of power using coal compared to biomass. If all current boilers within the SEE would substitute 20% of their current fuel to biomass, you would correspondingly decrease the need for fossil fuels. 

There are also large quantities of biomass available, ready to be integrated in to these processes, mainly wood residues (e.g. sawdust, branches etc.) from the wood factories. Large portions of biomass can be obtained from annual tree branch trimming (Iliadis, 2009) that could make the process self-sustaining.

If EU want to reach their target of 27% of energy consumption from renewable resources by 2030 (European Commission, 2016), some actions towards the biggest polluters must be taken. Success on a global scale is heavily related to many small improvements at the location with the largest room for improvement. This integration of biomass in to an already existing process could really help improve the climate as a whole since it is cheap and already available, and we all know that availability is a huge factor in large scale decision making.

REFERENCES

H.Rusinkowski, M.Szega, A.Milejski. “Mathematical model of the CFB boiler co-fired with coal and biomass”. International Carpathian Control conference, 2012 Web 10 Okt. 2019

N.A.Iliadis. “Biomass development and potential in south east europe”. IEEE Power & Energy Society General meeting, 2009 Web 10 Okt. 2019

Climate Action Network Europe. 2018. South East Europe. [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.caneurope.org/energy/south-east-europe [Visited 10 Okt 2019]

European Comission. 2016. Clean Energy for All Europeans. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-strategy-and-energy-union/clean-energy-all-europeans [Visited 10 Okt 2019]

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