Today, electric utilities with coal-fired capacity are challenged to creatively respond to regulatory pressures, address resource limitations, and manage aging assets to take advantage of opportunities in the deregulating marketplace. To maintain their competitive edge, electric utilities must minimize their costs while maximizing availability. Units must perform reliably, resources must be effectively allocated, planning must be done with foresight, and regulatory compliance must be maintained.
The necessity to keep power plants at top performance is more important that ever in the changing electric utility environment. Top performance means economical performance and compliance with environmental regulations. One method to achieve top performance is the conversion to Powder River Basin (PRB) fuel. PRB coal has a number of attractive attributes. It is relatively low in cost, has low sulfur content, and there is a reliable supply. Challenges involved in the use of PRB coal include higher moisture, lower energy content, and different ash composition than eastern bituminous coal. The ash composition can result in deposits on furnace walls that are difficult to remove and impact plant operation. All coal-fired boilers experience some ash deposits, and PRB ash creates special problems. This article discusses benefits, challenges and solutions of burning PRB coal.