Lignite is a soft brown fuel with the characteristics of coal and turf combined. It also plays an important role as a competitive energy source in the power generation of many European countries. However, the specific properties of lignite lead to relatively low softening and melting temperatures, resulting in deposits forming in the boiler during combustion. Machines known as sootblowers have traditionally been used to alleviate the situation but were not entirely effective. A new solution was urgently required.
© Euracoal, 2012
LIGPOWER was a three year Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) project that began in September 2003. With nearly €1 million in funding from the European Commission, it was coordinated by RWE Power Aktiengesellschaft in Germany with partners in Greece, Germany and the United Kingdom.
"Lignite is one of the few domestic energy sources in Europe that is available in the long term. In fact, for many countries, such as Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland, it is crucial for their energy supply," said project coordinator, Georg Wiechers at RWE Power Aktiengesellschaft. "This being the case, the further development of lignite-based power plant engineering is of Europe-wide relevance."
Essentially, LIGPOWER tested improved cleaning equipment and new easier-to-clean heating surfaces with the goal of enhancing the availability and competitiveness of lignite as an energy source.
Commercial utility boilers were used in the testing and the technical improvements which occurred were integrated into the boiler operation. Lasting between 17,000 and 21,000 hours, tests were also conducted with high diligence leading to reliable results.
These results have lead to various direct and indirect economic benefits for coal-fired power plants. Direct benefits include the improvement of cleaning facilities, less deposits forming as well as increased efficiency.
Avoiding wrong investments which resulted in cost savings for the project as well as the coal sector in general is cited as an indirect economic benefit. According to Wiechers, based on the results of the project, correct decisions concerning alternative cleaning facilities could be taken and as a result, wrong investments were avoided.
Finally, the benefits of LIGPOWER could go well beyond the power plant. According to experts, reducing operational constraints in such plants could greatly help reach the European Commission's targets on competitiveness and security of supply.