China Leads the Way

China Leads the Way

Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants are 45% more efficient than typical subcritical power plants. Ultra-supercritical plants are now referred to as High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) power plants.

China has focused on HELE plants to confront its severe pollution problem in its big cities. China also has large supplies of coal, and far fewer supplies of natural gas, so it’s pursuing the least costly means for generating electricity using available resources while addressing its pollution problem.

In a remarkable turnaround, approximately 20% of China’s coal-fired power generation capacity now comes from HELE plants.

China currently has 90 HELE plants in operation, all built over the past ten years. More are in the pipeline.

The fleet of coal-fired power plants in the United States has an average efficiency of around 33%.

New HELE plants can have an efficiency of around 45% HHV.

It’s reported in Power Magazine that the most efficient HELE plant in China has an efficiency of 47.8 %, but the magazine fails to mention whether it is HHV or LHV. Using LHV results in slightly higher efficiencies than when using HHV. See, Japan and China: Remarkably Clean Coal.

Only one HELE plant has been built in the United States, the J.W. Turk power plant in Arkansas.

J. W. Turk HELE power plant

It’s now illegal for any new HELE plants to be built in the United States. The EPA regulations state that all new coal-fired power plants must not emit more than 1,400 pounds of CO2 per MWh. HELE plants can come close, but cannot meet the EPA’s requirements.

Currently, the United States has large quantities of low-cost natural gas that can make natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants more economical to build than HELE coal-fired power plants.

But, this is a temporary situation, and areas already exist where a new HELE power plant could be economically justified.

With existing emission controls, HELE plants can meet all EPA environmental regulations, except for CO2 emissions.

It’s foolish for the United States to prevent the building of HELE coal-fired power plants arbitrarily.

The market, not government should decide which power plants to build.

Just as left wing organizations praised the Soviet Union in the 1930s and ‘40s, today’s organizations are praising Communist China while denigrating the United States.

The Center for American Progress issued a report highly complimentary of China’s adoption of new coal-fired HELE technology while disparaging the inefficient coal-power fleet of the United States. They failed to mention that it’s illegal to build HELE power plants in the United States.

Interestingly, Power Magazine, in its article on China’s environment, quoted extensively, in many cases word for word, from the article by the Center for American Progress.

China recognizes that HELE plants are efficient and clean, and continues to improve on the technology.

The United States is prevented by regulation from building HELE coal-fired power plants and is falling behind in a technology in which it once led.

4 Replies to “China Leads the Way”

  1. It is 47.8 % HHV.

    At the moment you could only build a coal-fired HELE plant in the USA (like the UK and most of the EU countries) if it has carbon capture and storage. This is obviously uneconomic at present.

    • Thanks for mentioning CCS. I left it out of my article because CCS is a virtual impossibility. And it also substantially increases costs.

  2. Thanks. They not only want perfect, they want the wrong perfect.
    It’s a mythological world built on an idealism not founded on fact.

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