Lakeland pushes ‘opportunity coal’ up to 100% of McIntosh Unit 3 burn

General Electric (NYSE: GE) in a Jan. 13 statement highlighted the fact that Florida’s Lakeland Electric has announced it saved $12 million in fiscal year 2015—representing 15% to 20% of its annual coal supply costs—and improved the efficiency of its McIntosh Unit 3 by using GE’s innovative FuelSolv coal treatment technology.

FuelSolv is a portfolio of specialty chemical additives that minimize combustion challenges and allow utilities to burn lower-grade, lower-cost “opportunity coal” without jeopardizing boiler efficiency. As a result, Lakeland also saved an additional $500,000 in the unit’s operating costs from 2010 to 2014, GE noted.

In order to stay competitive, Lakeland Electric began looking to fuel its power plant with different types of less expensive, lower-grade opportunity coal. However, this coal also is more difficult to burn, and using it may cause plants to experience an increase in ash slag deposits on the boiler walls, super heater and reheater tubes. These deposits reduce efficiency and increase operating costs due to tube failures, decreased heat transfer and increased maintenance costs.

To overcome this deposit problem, increase efficiency and reduce costs at McIntosh, Lakeland Electric enlisted GE’s FuelSolv fuel treatment program for deposit control. The chemical additives reduce slagging, which in turn allows the plant to operate at maximum loads while minimizing the need to shut down for cleaning. Deposits that do form in the combustion zone are generally much easier to remove, reducing the downtime required for mechanical cleaning.

“Using GE’s FuelSolv application has allowed our McIntosh station to burn the lower-cost opportunity coal without the problems of slagging or de-rating in our boilers, which ultimately is saving our plant and the city of Lakeland a lot of money in operational costs and coal supply costs,” said Ken Riddle, supervisor of chemical processes for Lakeland Electric. “We have been increasing the percentage of opportunity coal used in our boilers for quite some time and were able to reach the point where 100 percent of fuel burned in Unit #3 is opportunity coal.”

“With electric utilities in Florida dealing with a range of challenges, Lakeland Electric’s use of GE’s FuelSolv fuel treatment program is a great showcase for other utilities looking to increase the fuel flexibility, efficiency and competitiveness of their existing coal-fired generating units,” said Amy Ericson, chemical and monitoring solutions global leader—water and process technologies for GE Power.

For many years, McIntosh had burned Central Appalachia coal. However, while prices for CAPP coal increased due to various factors, natural gas prices decreased. This cost difference has placed coal-fired generation at a competitive disadvantage with natural gas-fired combined-cycle units. To remain competitive, utilities have been seeking options to use more lower-quality opportunity coals such as Northern Appalachia and Illinois Basin coal in blends with or replacements for Central Appalachia coal.

Unit 3 was offline for standard mechanical cleaning from March to October 2014, but the unit has stayed online in 2015 and has continued to burn up to 100% opportunity coal for continued fuel savings and efficient production.

McIntosh consists of three fossil fuel-fired steam generators, three diesel-powered engines, and two gas turbines. Unit 3, where FuelSolv is being used, is a dry-bottom, wall-fired steam generator with a nominal design capacity of 364 MW. U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows McIntosh getting coal in 2015 from the Sugar Camp mine in Illinois through Foresight Coal Sales, the Pattiki mine in Illinois through Alliance Coal and the Cerrejon mine in Colombia through CMC.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.