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Report | December 2011

Foray into CFBC

At a technical seminar held at Taj President in Mumbai, Essar Projects (India) marked its foray into circulating fluidised bed combustion (CFBC) boilers licensed from Foster Wheeler (USA). R Srinivasan reports.

A technical seminar was organised by Essar Projects (India) at Taj President in Mumbai to mark its foray into utility circulating fluidised bed (CFBC) boilers licensed from Foster Wheeler (USA).

Essar Projects (India), the project management and construction division of the Essar Group has entered into a license agreement to design, manufacture and sell with Foster Wheeler, to introduce utility CFBC boiler technologies >150 MWe unit size. These boilers are primarily used in power generation by companies supplying power to the grid and is a well-established technology worldwide. They offer wide fuel flexibility and controlled SoX and NoX emissions without add-on equipment. Additionally, bio-mass based fuels can also be co-fired on these boilers, when designed to do so or even later during operation, with minor modifications in the fuel firing system.

Commenting on the tie-up with Foster Wheeler, Alywn K Bowden, President & CEO, Essar Projects (India) said, "Essar Projects has entered into this licensing agreement with Foster Wheeler - it is a relationship in which both partners add value. Foster Wheeler being the undisputed technology and market leader in CFB combustion and EPIL with almost 10,000 MW of multi-fuel power generation capacity in various stages of project execution pan-India. We believe CFBC technology is the clear way-forward for India as the market here is facing coal-supply constraints and increasing environmental regulations. FW's CFB boiler technology addresses both these customer concerns with world-class technology and market leading products and will provide the necessary boost to expand and consolidate Essar Projects' position as one of the key players in power plant construction in India."

James rounded off the technical seminar with a presentation of the Samcheok Green Power Plant in Korea which is to be completed by 2015. Its goal is to be the world's best power plant model - which seemed feasible in view of the classy and futuristic presentation.

On the sidelines

The presentation and discussion on the topic of 'Clean coal- green power technology' was made by James J Utt, Vice President, Utility, Steam Generators, Foster Wheeler Global Power Group. We spoke to him on the sidelines of the seminar. Excerpts:

Kindly give us details of circulating fluidised bed boilers (CFBC) boilers and the deal between Foster Wheeler and Essar.
Our company has been a global leader in the CFBC technology for the last 25 years. We enjoy a market share of over 50 per cent globally and with certain fuel types (petcoke, biomass etc) of around 70 per cent. In the US we have around 50 - 70 units operating today and recently of around 20 units sold, probably 15 were ours. On an industrial scale we have a licensee in India who have been our licensees for two decades now and have around 32 units in operation and most of them are 100 MW or below. We do have about 32 units in India and have just closed our Salaya III project with Essar, our licensee, for about 600 MWe of CFBC and the plant will be operational by 2014.

What will each boiler cost?
Each boiler is priced based on the fuel, make up of the fuel (i.e., high moisture lignite, high sulphur petroleum coke, coal washery rejects or imported Indonesian or Australian coal). So a lot depends on how we would look at the project from a fuel basis and then our design programmes are based on what the constituents of the fuel are.

What is the potential for such boilers in India? We see potential of around 1-3 projects per year and it depends on the aggressiveness of the marketing and the ability to capture and win projects in this extremely competitive market.
The company was responsible for the design, supply and erection for the 190 MWe biomass-fired Polaniec power station in Poland. Once operational in the fourth quarter of 2012, it will be the world's largest biomass power plant. So are there any plans for India which has a lot of potential for such projects? In view of the fuel flexibility and the push for green power globally, even in a developing country that is in dire need for energy, one cannot emphasise enough the value of biomass as a percentage of the fuel. So one can easily do that in a CFBC whether you have a 150 or 600 MWe unit. If you have a 600 MWe unit and have 10 per cent of your fuel that means you will need about 60 MWe worth of biomass i.e., trees to find. Now where are you going to find 60 MWe? That is the challenge.

Also what will be the cost to modify a CFBC boiler (fuel firing system) to be able to handle biomass?
The cost is very minimal. It would cost around $5 million to handle biomass on a 5 per cent of a 150 MWe unit - a very small percentage of a $300 million plant.

Any plans for solar tower technology with thermal storage?
Absolutely. We have our business unit in Madrid (Spain) which is big into solar steam generators, heat exchangers etc. We have completed around 300 MW of thermal solar projects.

We also spoke to Arjun Bharathan, Senior Vice President, Plant Technologies, Essar Projects (India). Excerpts:

Kindly give us details of the CFBC boilers and the deal between Foster Wheeler and Essar.
We have entered into a 20-year licensing agreement with Foster Wheeler to design, manufacture and sell their CFB boilers of the utility sizes in the Indian sub-continent. We are also able to obtain spot licenses from FW for other markets on a case to case basis.

Where will they be manufactured?
Currently, the choice that we have is to source it from Foster Wheeler's own shop in China (for the first three projects) or from their approved vendors anywhere in the world. The license allows us to manufacture ourselves or subcontract the manufacture; we can subcontract it in India, Indonesia or China. So tomorrow if anti-dumping comes on China, we can go to Indonesia or to a factory in India as long as Foster Wheeler approves the quality systems. We will look at setting up our own shop when the market justifies it.

What are the technical specifications, how many boilers will be supplied and what are their advantages?
Today, starting from 150 MWe they can go up to 1,000 MWe for which designs are available. FW currently have on hand a Korean order for 4x550 MWe super-critical CFBs which will be the world's largest CFB boilers when completed in 2014. The world's largest CFB operating boiler today is a super-critical boiler of 460 MWe in Poland.

The biggest advantage of CFB boilers is that they can be designed for a wide variety of fuels or adapted later very easily to switch fuels. So the criticality is to design the boilers, at the beginning, for a wide range of fuels which increases its cost but it gives the operator the flexibility of taking fuel arbitrages and not using one fuel for 20 years where they may be held to ransom by the fuel suppliers.

Even a $20 difference in the price of coal over a 10 year period can result in savings of millions of dollars on fuel. Also CFB boilers are inherently capable of limiting SoX and NoX emissions to very low levels within the boiler itself. Therefore a CFB boiler actually turns out to be cheaper than a PC boiler with add on flue gas de-sulphurisers and catalytic reducers for SoX and NoX gas reductions on a like to like fuel basis. Emissions of SoX and NoX gases are harmful to the environment and result in acid rain and lung damage. A CFB boiler is therefore an environment friendly solution to burn coal and other solid fuels.
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