Closing the carbon cycle – News from the latest Freiberg Conference

The 9th Freiberg conference on IGCC & XtL Technologies was held in sunny Berlin with some 290 delegates attending. As with many conferences, the parallel sessions meant hopping between rooms to catch the papers that sounded most interesting.

We were given the chance to hear about the latest developments in the gasification of coal and biomass, gasification kinetics, process modelling, mineral matter behaviour, gas purification, power-to-X (such as fuels and chemicals), power generation cycles, underground coal gasification, pilot plants, ash utilisation, carbon capture utilisation and storage, and many other topics.

There was a lot of interest in achieving both a low carbon and a circular economy where all waste products can be recycled and reused. Whilst most delegates admired the view from the TV Tower Berlin, the alternative conference dinner on the river cruise allowed delegates to view the operating power plants in Berlin.

The technical tour to the Welzow South lignite surface mine showed the vast scale of coal mining and the emphasis on land reclamation. Overburden removed from one side of the mine is transported by conveyor belt to the opposite side, where it fills in the area already mined. Trees are planted to provide the forests of the future.

Vines have been planted to create a new wine industry and jobs for the local population. Unfortunately, no wine was available for sampling!

There was no opportunity to go into the mining area due to concerns over spontaneous combustion from the recent hot weather, but the viewing points gave some idea of the scale. The lignite is sent to the nearby Schwarze Pumpe power plant, which we visited in the afternoon. The baseload plant has two 800 MW units and a net efficiency of over 40%. It also has the largest hydrogen cooled electric generators in the world.

Emissions are controlled through primary denitrification measures, electrostatic filters and flue gas desulphurisation. Water for cooling and steam generation comes from the dewatering system of the Welzow South mine – an example of a circular economy?

As well as electricity, the power plant also provides district heating for households and process steam to the nearby briquettes factory and to the paper industry. The informative tours ended an interesting conference with many ideas to take away.