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One of the major pathways of reducing the CO2 emissions from fossil-fired power generation is to maximise the efficiency of new plants built to meet future demand growth and for replacing older or inefficient plants. To enable the other major pathway, carbon dioxide capture and storage, it is imperative that new plants are designed and operated at highest efficiency. At the Gleneagles Summit in July 2005, the G8 leaders invited the IEA “…to carry out a global study of recently constructed plants, building on the work of its Clean Coal Centre, to assess which are the most cost effective and have the highest efficiencies and lowest emissions, and to disseminate this information widely”.

The series of case studies outlined in this report were conducted in response to the G8 leaders’ request to ascertain what efficiency is currently achieved and at what cost in modern fossil-fired plants using different grades of fuel in different geographical areas of the world. As explained herein, efficiency of power generation depends, among other factors, on fuel quality and ambient conditions. Recent coal-fired power plants of high efficiency use pulverised coal combustion (PCC) with supercritical (very high pressure and temperature) steam turbine cycles, and so most of the case studies are drawn from these.

A review of current and future applications of coalfuelled integrated gasification combined cycle plants (IGCC) is also included, as is a case study of a natural gas-fired combined cycle plant to facilitate comparisons. The case studies show that the technologies for reliable operation at high efficiency and very low conventional pollutant emissions from coal-fired power generation are available now at commercially acceptable cost. The report also illustrates how operational practice and innovative designs to suit local conditions can be used to improve efficiency.
The challenge to the policy makers now is to formulate measures that would enable wider deployment of these technologies globally but particularly in countries which need these most, while also encouraging operational best practice and continued technological improvement towards higher efficiency. This report provides the technical underpinning for another report underway at the IEA assessing prospects of widespread upgrading of older coal-fired power plants in major coal using countries. Colin Henderson of the IEA Clean Coal Centre is the author of this report, which was prepared for the International Energy Agency by IEA Coal Research Limited, an operating agent for the IEA Clean Coal Centre.

A number of individuals assisted in the development of the case studies; they are acknowledged at the end of each of the case studies in Chapter 3. In addition, IEA Coal Research also organized separate reviews of the draft by a number of anonymous reviewers. At the IEA, very useful comments were provided by Neil Hirst, Director of the Energy Technology Office; Antonio Pflüger, Head of the Energy Technology Collaboration Division; Nancy Turck, Chief Legal Counsel, IEA; Jean-Yves Garnier, Head of the Energy Statistics Division; and Rebecca Gaghen, Head of the Communication and Information Office. The report was reviewed extensively at the IEA by Sankar Bhattacharya, Brian Ricketts, Jacek Podkanski and Kamel Bennaceur.

Production assistance was provided by Corinne Hayworth, Bertrand Sadin, Sophie Schlondorff and Muriel Custodio of the IEA Communication and Information Office (CIO). Comments and queries on this report should be addressed to Dr. Sankar Bhattacharya at [email protected] Comments and queries on this report should be addressed to Dr. Sankar Bhattacharya at [email protected]