Coal-fired power stations are relatively expensive to build since their construction involves both large quantities of expensive materials, such as iron and steel, and large volumes of labor. While some parts of a coal-fired power plant such as its steam turbines can be assembled in a factory and then delivered to the site, much of the assembly of the boiler and flue-gas cleaning systems must take place at the site itself. As a consequence, the cost of a coal-fired power plant will be vulnerable to changing commodity costs and generally increasing labor costs.

Against this the fuel (coal) is generally the cheapest of fossil fuels and this will normally outweigh the high capital cost so that the cost of electricity from a coal-fired power station will be among the most competitive available. Cur- rently, coal-fired power stations are built without carbon capture facilities but this is likely to be required at some point during the third decade of the 21st century. It is also likely that plants built before that time will be required to be carbon-capture ready so that post-carbon-capture technology can be fitted at a later stage. All this needs to be taken into account when considering construction of a coal-fired power generating facility.

Table 3.6 shows the estimated 2011 cost of coal-fired power plants in the United States in 2010 dollar prices based on data from the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration. This analysis suggests that the capital cost of an advanced PC power plant is $3167/kW. When carbon capture and storage is added to this, based on post-combustion capture, the cost rises to $5099/kW, an increase of 60%.

An integrated gasification combined cycle power plant without carbon capture and storage would, on the same basis, have cost $3565/kW in 2011.


Power Generation Technologies-0206

However, when carbon capture and storage is added to this plant, based on the type of system discussed before, the price would rise to $5348/kW. The cost of an oxy-fuel combustion plant was not included in the analysis but other analyzes suggest that the cost is likely to be similar to those in Table 3.6 for the other technologies with carbon capture.

Other analyses suggest that future costs will be lower than this. Table 3.7 shows another set of figures for the cost of future coal-fired power plants, in this case as estimated by the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). This analysis is based on the assumption that carbon dioxide capture will not be deployed by 2015. The cost of a PC power plant in that year, again calculated in 2010 U.S. dollars, is estimated to be between $2000/kW and $2300/kW. At the same time, the cost of an integrated gasification combined cycle plant is put at between $3150/kW and $3450/kW.

EPRI has assumed that carbon capture and storage will be necessary in 2025. By then the cost of a PC plant with carbon capture and storage is estimated to be $2600–2850/kW. For an integrated gasification combined cycle power plant the cost range is $3100–3800/kW. As before, there is no consideration of an oxy- fuel combustion plant, but the cost of this can be expected to fall somewhere within the cost range of the two other technologies, $2600–3800/kW.

All these costs are for power plants built in the United States. While costs are likely to be similar in Europe, commodity prices and especially labor costs are likely to differ widely in other parts of the world and this can affect the capital cost significantly. Costs in countries like China and India are consistently much lower than in the United States and Europe.

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