The 10th European Conference on Coal Research and Its Applications (ECCRIA) was held over three days this week at the University of Hull. Organised by the Coal Research Forum, this biennial event rotates amongst UK universities with a coal research interest, but also draws significant international involvement. With carbon mitigation top of the agenda for current coal research, carbon capture and biomass firing featured heavily in the conference programme, alongside several sessions addressing gasification and coal conversion technologies.
A large proportion of the carbon capture work presented used plant models to achieve better integration of the capture process and the power plant, applied to both amine-based capture and calcium looping. Optimising the heat integration between these two plant components will be a crucial means of reducing the efficiency penalty of carbon capture, with savings of up to 2%pts possible. Experimental work in post-combustion capture included work by the Polish Institute of Chemical Processing of Coal on their mobile amine unit attached to the slipstream of a 225 MW coal plant, used to study the effect of varying process flows and parameters. An original talk from Newcastle University looked at how nickel nanoparticles can catalyse the hydration of CO2 in capture applications, apparently inspired by their similar use in forming the shells of marine organisms.
Work on oxyfuel carbon capture focussed on more fundamental models of the combustion process, including computational fluid dynamics results from the UK’s PACT oxyfuel pilot and an interesting Monte Carlo-based model of oxyfuel char combustion. Boiler corrosion rates were shown to be similar in oxyfuel and air environments by a Leeds study, although increasing sulphur levels had a negative impact.
UK universities are leading the way in biomass research, with a wide range of studies presented covering mainly fundamental aspects of combustion such as ignition, single particle combustion, and char yields. As research at the University of Nottingham demonstrated, when cofired with coal, the elevated alkali metal content of biomass actually has a catalytic effect on coal char combustion. Another Nottingham study looked at the degradation of biomass pellets exposed to the elements in order to assess the feasibility of outside storage.
As I’m currently working on a report on advanced sensors in coal plant, several talks concerning coal flow measurements with electrostatic sensor arrays were of particular interest. Based on picking up the electrostatic charge on coal particles and correlating the readings between spatially separated arrays, these sensors can provide a much cheaper alternative to optical-based measurements.
Some new predictive tools for improving boiler operation presented included a neural network approach to predicting boiler drum dynamics developed at the University of Hull, and the University of North Dakota’s new ‘first principles’ model for determining how trace elements will partition in ash.
As the conference was divided into two tracks, I’ve only offered my own personal snapshot of the programme here, but all the abstracts are available from the conference website and should be joined by the presentations in the coming weeks.