One of the current problems in modern-day energy production is the current price of fuel and how they impact the overall price of energy production.
Fuel costs for power plants are affected by market fluctuations, which make it quite difficult to produce power efficiently. The solution to such a dilemma comes in the form of present-day circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology. The use of this type of technology is far more beneficial for a country’s energy grid due to the following reasons:
- It is not isolated to just one type of fuel source; rather, it can utilize coal, biomass (i.e., biological waste residue) and other types of fuel sources that can be combusted.
- Circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology is more efficient as compared to pulverized coal combustion resulting in far less pollution.
- It has fewer C0 and TOC emissions which makes it a better “green” technology.
- It has low levels of emitted SOx and NOx, which, along with its lower rates of unburned carbon in the ash during production, creates less environmental pollution (Jingji et al., 2013).
How is technology able to deliver a far “cleaner” method of energy production?
Circulating fluidized bed technology can deliver a cleaner method of energy production through the use of jets of air that suspend solid fuels during the combustion process.
The result is a particularly volatile mixture of gasses and solids within the combustion chamber which creates a sort of tumbling action (somewhat similar to what you would see in a washing machine albeit on a far larger scale) resulting in a more efficient and effective means of creating chemical reactions ending up in heat transference.
Do note that during the “tumbling” process within the combustion chamber, a sort of “scrubbing” occurs wherein the fluidized bed causes the gasses and chemicals that are tumbling about to come into contact with sulfur absorbing materials that are lining the inside of the combustor (Zeng et al., 2011).
This “scrubber,” which is normally limestone or dolomite (though other potential substances could also be utilized), helps to remove more than 95% of the sulfur-based pollutants that are released when utilizing a primarily coal-based fuel.
Based on what has been presented so far, it can be seen that the circulating fluidized bed design for energy production is both a clean, energy efficient, and flexible means of energy production. Its wide variety of potential fuel sources combined with its efficient nature makes it an ideal choice for countries that are trying to “go green.”
Comparison to Pulverized Coal Combustion
On the other end of the spectrum of energy production is the pulverized coal combustion process, which is utilized by a vast majority of present-day power plants. The process utilized in pulverized coal combustion is quite simple; coal is simply ground into a powder like a form after which it is ignited within the combustion chamber of the power plant (Cheng et al., 2009).
The resulting reaction between the coal and application of igniters generates the needed heat energy to create steam, which turns turbines resulting in the creation of electrical energy. However, the direct combustion of coal utilizing this method creates considerable amounts of gas emissions containing sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and even small amounts of mercury (Cheng et al., 2009).
These emissions can normally be seen coming out of a power plant which causes considerable environmental damage over time, as seen in the case of China. While methods of filtration are utilized, the fact remains that it is unlikely that all the particulates could be properly removed from the power plant’s emissions.
All in all, it can be seen that while the pulverized coal combustion process is cheaper in terms of construction, it has a considerable environmental cost which makes circulating fluidized bed (CFB) technology an ideal method of energy production.
Cheng, J. J., Zhou, J. H., Liu, J. Z., Cao, X. Y., & Cen, K. F. (2009). Transformations and Affinities for Sulfur of Chinese Shenmu Coal Ash in a Pulverized Coal- Fired Boiler. Energy Sources Part A: Recovery, Utilization & Environmental Effects, 31(11), 956-966.
Jingji, L., Hairui, Y., Yuxin, W., Junfu, L., & Guangxi, Y. (2013). Effects of the Updated National Emission Regulation in China on Circulating Fluidized Bed Boilers and the Solutions To Meet Them. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(12), 6681-6687.
Zeng, B., Lu, X., Gan, L., & Shu, M. (2011). Development of a novel fluidized bed ash cooler for circulating fluidized bed boilers: Experimental study and application. Powder Technology, 212(1), 151-160.