Mae Moh plant first to use new technology
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.