The US Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a project to improve materials for supercritical coal plants in an effort to boost the global competitiveness of American boiler manufacturers.
The DOE intends to fund the research initiative with a consortium of boiler manufacturers and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
The US Energy Department, through its National Energy Technology Laboratory, will provide $10.5 million over the next five years to The Energy Industries of Ohio Inc.
The organisation is leading a consortium of four major US boiler manufacturers (Alstom, McDermott Technologies with its affiliate Babcock and Wilcox, Foster Wheeler, and Babcock Borsig), the Electric Power Research Institute, the Ohio Coal Development Office, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The consortium will provide an additional $4.8 million.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the effort, act as a liaison between the consortium and the utility industry, and advise the consortium on environmental and systems issues.
At the end of five years, a family of pipes and components made of advanced steel capable of withstanding operating temperatures up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit is to be produced.
The project also contains provisions for developing advanced alloys suited to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit if needed. European and Japanese boiler makers’ products are typically designed to operate at temperatures approaching 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Power plants in the US are typically 35 percent efficient. By developing better materials that can withstand higher temperatures, the Energy Department hopes to boost efficiencies between 52 and 55 percent.
According to the DOE, these efficiency gains would cut the release of carbon dioxide and other emissions by nearly 30 percent.
The project centres around five main goals, which include identifying materials that limit operating temperatures and thermal efficiency of coal-fired plants, and defining and implementing ways of producing improved alloys, fabrication processes and coating methods that allow boilers to operate at 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The project comes as the US faces an unprecedented demand to produce more electricity. Increasing demands for electricity are occurring just as environmental standards in America are becoming tougher, demanding cleaner, more reliable and more affordable power generation.