Environmental Protection

Waste2Tricity Names Arbon Board Chair

The board of Waste2Tricity on July 15 announced the appointment of Professor Ian Arbon, CEng, CEnv as chair.

Arbon's appointment coincides with the news of a proposed joint venture to bring together the most efficient technology to convert coal into electricity combining new generation fuel cells with underground coal gasification (UCG), according to the London-based company's press release.

Thornton New Energy Ltd and Waste2Tricity Ltd have signed a memorandum of understanding. Also allowing for the capture of carbon dioxide as part of the process, the proposed joint venture is the United Kingdom's first commercial application to generate clean electricity from coal, combining new generation AFC Energy fuel cells with UCG and other proven technologies. The gasification of coal underground generates a fuel with a low emissions profile and the potential for complete carbon capture and storage (CCS) at low energy and financial costs.

Thornton New Energy, a subsidiary of BCG Energy Ltd, was in January 2009 awarded the first UK license to carry out UCG and develop deep, previously un-mineable coal reserves under the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Waste2Tricity has exclusive rights for the application of AFC Energy fuel cells with any gasification technology within the UK, including energy from waste.

Thornton New Energy's director of surface facilities, Alan Borrowman, says, "When combined with UCG, the hydrogen fuel cells enable a higher efficiency conversion of the energy in coal to electricity. We were very keen to partner with Waste2Tricity in order to utilize AFC Energy's new generation fuel cells and create the first clean coal electricity model that outperforms conventional coal power stations in terms of net energy generated from coal, the low cost opportunity to eliminate CO2 emissions, and even the potential to eliminate the need for conventional coal mining activities."

New Chair Arbon commented: "This is a major breakthrough in the future utilization of coal for electricity generation and could have a significant impact worldwide in eliminating greenhouse gases produced from coal. This is one of the few technologies available to us which will actually help us to meet the UK's ambitious 2020 emissions commitments."

Because UCG takes place underground, normal coal extraction processes are eliminated, reducing noise and visual impact, and the technology can be incorporated on existing coal mines.

Once the coal is gasified, it is maintained by continuous oxidant flow that converts it into syngas, a combustible hydrogen-rich synthetic gas. The syngas is piped to the surface and undergoes a number of cleaning processes before going through a water gas shift reaction to enrich the hydrogen content of the gas stream. The hydrogen is then extracted from the resultant gas by pressure swing absorption, separating the gas into two streams, one pure hydrogen and the other pure CO2. The hydrogen stream will feed the high efficiency AFC Energy fuel cells, generating electricity with water as a byproduct. By requiring the output energy gases to be converted to obtain hydrogen, a byproduct of this process is the free capture of CO2, usually the most expensive component of CCS. At least 99 percent of the carbon present in the syngas can be captured in this process and is then available for storage.

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