Advanced coal technologies — also referred to as clean coal technologies — are state-of-the-art emission control devices and boiler technologies that over several decades have led to steady increases in energy efficiency and lower emissions from coal electricity generation.
Today’s power plants emit more than 90 percent fewer pollutants (SO2, NOx, particulates and mercury)/ unit of electricity generated than the plants they replace from the 1970s. High efficiency, low emissions (HELE) technologies eliminate nearly all regulated emissions and significantly reduce CO2 emissions.
In addition to what exists today, other technological advancements can further increase efficiency and reduce emissions. Ultra-super critical technologies are continually being improved, resulting in units operating at even higher efficiencies than the current ultra-supercritical systems, potentially up to an efficiency rate above 50 percent. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology also holds promise. CCS captures CO2 emissions from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes and stores them in geologic formations or deep in the ocean where they dissolve under pressure.
CCS technologies under development include: post-combustion capture from flue gas using an amine solvent and chilled ammonia; pre-combustion capture using IGCC to isolate and capture CO2 before it is released; and oxy-coal combustion using pure oxygen in the boiler to significantly reduce the dilution of CO2 in the exhaust gas stream. Like renewable energy sources such as wind and solar in their early days, these technologies require substantial investment to become commercially viable, and should receive the same kinds of investment, policy parity and support.