Between 2010 and the first quarter of 2019, U.S. power companies announced the retirement of more than 546 coal-fired power units, totaling about 102 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity. Plant owners intend to retire another 17 GW of coal-fired capacity by 2025, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory. After a coal unit retires, the power plant site goes through a complex, multi-year process that includes decommissioning, remediation, and redevelopment.
Coal-fired power plants in the United States remain under significant economic pressure. Many plant owners have retired their coal-fired units because of relatively flat electricity demand growth and increased competition from natural gas and renewables. In 2018, plant owners retired more than 13 GW of coal-fired generation capacity, which is the second-highest annual total for U.S. coal retirements in EIA’s dataset; the highest total for coal retirements, at 15 GW, occurred in 2015.
The annual number of retired U.S. coal units has declined since 2015, and the configuration of retired coal capacity has changed. Coal-fired units that retired after 2015 in the United States have generally been larger and younger than the units that retired before 2015. The U.S. coal units that retired in 2018 had an average capacity of 350 megawatts (MW) and an average age of 46 years, compared with an average capacity of 129 MW and average age of 56 years for the coal units that retired in 2015.
During a coal-fired plant’s decommissioning process, the electric-generating equipment—such as precipitators, boilers, turbines, and generators—are shut down and operating permits are terminated. Unused coal and materials associated with both the generation process and the buildings and structures are removed. The electric-generating equipment may be used at other plants or sold as scrap.
Unlike nuclear plant decommissioning, which is closely regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the physical process of decommissioning a coal-fired power plant is not as firmly regulated in terms of specific procedure. The time required to physically decommission a coal-fired power plant varies and sometimes overlaps with remediation and redevelopment.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Remediation involves cleaning up hazardous materials to meet federal and state requirements. Remediation of coal combustion residuals (CCR), commonly known as coal ash, is the primary focus in coal plant decommissioning because it is one of the largest U.S. industrial waste streams. CCR can be disposed in onsite landfills or surface impoundments, known as coal ash ponds. CCR also can be moved offsite to be recycled into products such as concrete or wallboard.
The redevelopment of a decommissioned coal-fired plant may involve repurposing the site for another generation technology or some other commercial, industrial, or municipal application. Coal-fired power plants typically occupy land in or near downtown areas or along rivers, and they usually have access to railways, roadways, water, sewers, and other infrastructure.
Repowering a plant with natural gas-fired technology, such as a combined-cycle natural gas turbine plant, requires significantly less space than coal-fired configurations, which could cover hundreds of acres. Repowering a former coal-fired plant with natural gas-fired elements is a viable option for power providers because much of the critical infrastructure is already in place, including transmission lines, substations, and water.
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Pioneering technology expert tells ADIPEC Energy Dialogue up to 80 per cent of plant shutdowns could be mitigated through combination of advanced electrification, automation and digitalisation technologies
Greater use of renewables in power management processes offers oil and gas companies opportunities to create efficiencies, sustainability and affordability when modernising equipment, or planning new CAPEX projects
Abu Dhabi, UAE – XX August 2020 – Leveraging the synergies created by the convergence of electrification, automation and digitalisation, can create significant cost savings for oil and gas companies when making both operational and capital investment decisions, according to Dr Peter Terwiesch, President of Industrial Automation at ABB, a Swiss-Swedish multinational company, operating mainly in robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment, and automation technology areas.
Participating in the latest ADIPEC Energy Dialogue, Dr Terwiesch said up to 80 per cent of energy industry plant shutdowns, caused by human error, or rotating machinery or power outages, could be mitigated through a combination of electrification, automation and digitalisation.
“Savings are clearly possible not only on the operation side but also, using the same synergies between dimensions, you can bring down the cost schedule and risk of capital investment, especially in a time when making projects work economically is harder,” explained Dr Terwiesch.
A pioneering technology leader, who works closely with utility, industry, transportation and infrastructure customers, Dr Terwiesch said despite the increasing investment by oil and gas companies in renewables and the growing use of renewables to generate electricity, both for individual and industrial uses, hydrocarbons will continue to have an important role in creating energy, in the short to medium term.
“If you look at the energy density constraints, clearly electricity is gaining share but electricity is not the source of energy; it is a conduit of energy. The energy has to come from somewhere and that can be hydrocarbons, or nuclear, or renewables.” he said.
Nevertheless, he added, the greater use of renewables to generate electricity offers oil and gas companies the option of integrating a higher share of renewables into power management processes to create efficiencies, sustainability and affordability when modernising equipment, or planning new CAPEX projects.
The ADIPEC Energy Dialogue is a series of online thought leadership events created by dmg events, organisers of the annual Abu Dhabi International Exhibition and Conference. Featuring key stakeholders and decision-makers in the oil and gas industry, the dialogues focus on how the industry is evolving and transforming in response to the rapidly changing energy market.
With this year’s in person ADIPEC exhibition and conference postponed to November 2021, the ADIPEC Energy Dialogue, along with insightful webinars, podcasts and on line panels continue to connect the oil and gas industry, with the challenges and opportunities shaping energy markets in the run up to, and following, a planned three-day live stream virtual ADIPEC conference taking place from November 9-11.
An industry first of its kind, the online conference will bring together energy leaders, ministers and global oil and gas CEOs to assess the collective measures the industry needs to put in place to fast-track recovery, post COVID-19.
To watch the full ADIPEC Energy Dialogue series go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZzUd32n3_s&t=6s
Utility-scale battery storage systems are increasingly being installed in the United States. In 2010, the United States had seven operational battery storage systems, which accounted for 59 megawatts (MW) of power capacity (the maximum amount of power output a battery can provide in any instant) and 21 megawatthours (MWh) of energy capacity (the total amount of energy that can be stored or discharged by a battery). By the end of 2018, the United States had 125 operational battery storage systems, providing a total of 869 MW of installed power capacity and 1,236 MWh of energy capacity.
Battery storage systems store electricity produced by generators or pulled directly from the electrical grid, and they redistribute the power later as needed. These systems have a wide variety of applications, including integrating renewables into the grid, peak shaving, frequency regulation, and providing backup power.
Most utility-scale battery storage capacity is installed in regions covered by independent system operators (ISOs) or regional transmission organizations (RTOs). Historically, most battery systems are in the PJM Interconnection (PJM), which manages the power grid in 13 eastern and Midwestern states as well as the District of Columbia, and in the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Together, PJM and CAISO accounted for 55% of the total battery storage power capacity built between 2010 and 2018. However, in 2018, more than 58% (130 MW) of new storage power capacity additions, representing 69% (337 MWh) of energy capacity additions, were installed in states outside of those areas.
In 2018, many regions outside of CAISO and PJM began adding greater amounts of battery storage capacity to their power grids, including Alaska and Hawaii, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). Many of the additions were the result of procurement requirements, financial incentives, and long-term planning mechanisms that promote the use of energy storage in the respective states. Alaska and Hawaii, which have isolated power grids, are expanding battery storage capacity to increase grid reliability and reduce dependence on expensive fossil fuel imports.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report
Note: The cost range represents cost data elements from the 25th to 75th percentiles for each year of reported cost data.
Average costs per unit of energy capacity decreased 61% between 2015 and 2017, dropping from $2,153 per kilowatthour (kWh) to $834 per kWh. The large decrease in cost makes battery storage more economical, helping accelerate capacity growth. Affordable battery storage also plays an important role in the continued integration of storage with intermittent renewable electricity sources such as wind and solar.
Additional information on these topics is available in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) recently updated Battery Storage in the United States: An Update on Market Trends. This report explores trends in battery storage capacity additions and describes the current state of the market, including information on applications, cost, market and policy drivers, and future project developments.