Clean coal, low pollution future?

A new energy generation technology turns coal into gas and ensures cleaner emissions but is 50% more expensive. However, global warming concerns may soon lower costs.

Mae Moh power plant

Click button to listen to EGAT Coal Plans and rightclick to download

Egat makes clean coal switch, Mae Moh plant first to use new technology by Yuthana Praiwan

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) plans to adopt clean coal technology at its Mae Moh power plant in Lampang, replacing ageing generators with an integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) system.

Egat has asked the Institute of Energy Economics of Japan to do a feasibility study on the new technology, which turns coal into gas. The IGCC technology, which ensures cleaner gas emissions and greater efficiency, remains in the research and development stage among power producers.

Thailand has tried for more than two decades to diversify its fuel sources for electricity generation by using more coal and adopting nuclear but the efforts have met with strong protests by environmentalists and communities.

Egat deputy governor Somboon Arayaskul said that producing electricity from IGCC is about 50% more expensive than using fossil fuels.

However, in the future the cost is likely to drop as concerns about greenhouse gases will spur demand for the technology, creating economies of scale.

Egat aims to install IGCC units at the fourth to seventh units of its lignite-fired power generator with a combined capacity of 600 megawatts. The generators are more than 25 years old and will be decommissioned soon.

"We need Japan to help us prepare for a clean coal technology, as Japan is now regarded as the leader in power generation," said Mr Somboon.

Natural gas now accounts for 72% of the fuel used in domestic electricity production, with lignite and imported coal making up 19% and hydropower 5%. The rest is power imported from Laos and renewable energy.

According to the power development plan last updated in 2010, the gas proportion will be reduced to 45% in 2030, with coal in a range of 20% and 25%, imports from Laos 15-20%, renewable energy 5-10% and nuclear power 10%.

Nonetheless, energy policymakers are currently reviewing the plan due to the delay in the nuclear power programme by another three years in the wake of the recent nuclear accidents in Japan

In light of health concerns and protests, the Energy Ministry has recently put off the plans for nine coal-fired power plants to 2019 from 2014 planned earlier. It also postponed plans for five nuclear power plants by three years to 2023 at the earliest.

The country's current 20-year power development plan calls for five nuclear plants with a combined generating capacity of 5,000 MW out of the 30,000 MW total estimated to meet the demand in 2030.

The first two plants were scheduled to start operating in 2020 and 2021, but the recent events in Japan and concerns about a general lack of preparedness have prompted authorities to rethink nuclear development.

Mr Sutat said Egat would encourage eligible tambon administration organisations to operate their own power plants in order to reduce chances of strong protests.

Egat plans to survey each tambon after the election before submitting its plans to the new government.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Egat makes clean coal switch, Mae Moh plant first to use new technology, 4/06/2011, Yuthana Praiwan, list

Energy Generation Vocabulary

greenhouse gases - a natural part of the atmosphere, they "absorb and re-radiate the sun's warmth, and maintain the Earth's surface temperature at a level necessary to support life," when they are removed from the atmosphere believed to produce "global warming" (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)

global warming - the current rise in the average temperature of Earth's oceans and atmosphere resulting in changing weather with floods and droughts, "the scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring and was initiated by human activities, especially those that increase concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels. This finding is recognized by the national science academies of all the major industrialized countries and is not rejected by any scientific body of national or international standing" (See Wikipedia)

emissions - gases released into the air (from cars, factories, etc) การปล่อยออกมา

adopt - to start using something new นำมาใช้
clean coal technology - low pollution energy generation from coal

generate electricity (verb) - create electrity (in a power plant)
generation (noun) - the act of creating  
generator (noun) - a thing that creates 
power generation (noun) - the act of creating electricity
power generator (noun) - the thing that creates electricity

capacity - the amount of something that can be produced ความสามารถในการ (ผลิต)
generating capacity - the greatest amount of electricity (power) that can be generated by a "power plant" (working at "full capacity")

Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) - the government owned and operated power generation monopoly in Thailand 

fuel - a substance such as oil, natural gas or oil that is burned to generate electricity
energy - power from sources such as electricity and coal that is used to create light, run machines or provide heat, for example

fossil fuels - non-renewable oil and natural gas energy products obtained from dinosaur remains (fossils) in the ground
natural gas - a fuel in the form of a gas used for heating, cooking, and to generate electricity (power) in gas and steam turbines (See Wikipedia)

renewable energy - renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished) unlike energy from fossil fuels (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
hydropower - using the fast moving water in rivers to generate electricity (See Wikipedia) hydroelectricity

power - energy in the form of electricity produced in large quantities and used to operate lights, machines, and heating
plant - factory
power plant - a factory that produces electricity from substances such as natural gas or coal
Mae Moh power plant - the large power plant near Lampang that generates electricity with coal

lignite - brown coal used for steam-electric power generation, the lowest standard of coal, the most politically controversial type of coal because emissions are higher, not traded much in international markets (See Wikipedia)
lignite-fired power generator - a power plant using controversial lignite coal

integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) - "a technology that turns coal into gas—synthesis gas (syngas). It then removes impurities from the coal gas before it is combusted and attempts to turn any pollutants into re-usable byproducts. This results in lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulates and mercury. Excess heat from the primary combustion and generation is then passed to a steam cycle, similarly to a combined cycle gas turbine. This then also results in improved efficiency compared to conventional pulverized coal" (See Wikipedia)

General Vocabulary

switch - a change เปลี่ยน
ageing - growing older

integrated - combining things of different types in one effective system ที่รวมเข้าด้วยกัน
cycle - a series of events repeated over and over again (in the same order)

feasibility - whether something is possible to do (not impossible)
feasibility study - when experts study a project and decide whether success is possible or not

efficiency - achieve a lot with limited resources; waste little time, energy and resources in doing a task (minimize time, energy and resources in performing a task) (See glossary) การทำงานอย่างมีประสิทธิภาพ คุ้มค่าเวลาและใช้พลังงานหรือต้นทุนในการผลิตน้อย เพื่อให้ได้ผลผลิตมาก

research and development - the gradual growth and formation of something
stage - a part of an activity or process or a period of development ระยะ, ช่วง, ตอน, จังหวะเวลา

decades - periods of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี
diversify - add variety to that you already have ทำให้หลากหลาย (See glossary)

efforts - the work done towards achieving some goal ความพยายาม
protests - meetings, sometimes forceful or violent, or public statements by people who strongly disagree with something ชุมนุมประท้วง

environmentalist - a person who works to protect the natural environment (by educating the public or through protests) (See Wikipedia)
deputy - the person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation รอง, ตัวแทน,ผู้รักษาการแทน
concerns - worries ความกังวล

spur - to cause something to happen ก่อให้เกิด (See glossary)
demand - the need and desire to buy goods and services by households and businesses

scale - size (relative size)
economies of scale - when the cost falls as more of a good or service is produced (See Wikipedia)

install - put a piece of equipment somewhere and make it ready to be used ติดตั้งอุปกรณ์

decommission - officially ending the use of something (such as a power plant or a military weapon (example: The missiles would be decommissioned due to budget cuts.)

domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ

reviewing - looking at closely to see if there are problems
delay (noun) - waiting time; when you have to wait longer than expected for something to happen, or the time that you have to wait การเลื่อน
X in the wake of Y - the bad things X that happen after a big bad event Y

In light of Y, X - because of situation Y, X has happened or is true

(verb) - delayed; decided that something will be done at a later time เลื่อนออกไป
put off plans (verb) - postponed plans; delayed plans

current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน

scheduled - planned to happen at a particular time or day ตามตารางเวลา

lack - does not have ขาดแคลน
general lack of preparedness -
prompted -

authorities - government officials;  the police or people in official organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules เจ้าหน้าที่ (ตำรวจ หรือผู้มีอำนาจ)
encourage - cause someone to gain enthusiasm, motivation, and energy to make them more likely to do something ปลุกใจ

- allowed by rules or laws to do something or to receive something มีสิทธิ, มีสิทธิชอบธรรมตามกฎหมาย เอื้อด้วยกฎหมาย

tambon administration
organisations (TAO) - the name of the main local government bodies in Thailand

- gathering information about what people think about different subjects (public opionion) by asking large numbers of people questions and counting their answers, and then using statistics, graphs, and tables to present results (See Wikipedia)  การสำรวจความเห็น 
election - the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting elect (v) electoral (adj) synonym: the polls การเลือกตั้ง

About the author

Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer