Fuel prices greatly influence fossil technologies profitability. This is one of the reasons why a decision has been made at the Altamira Power Plant in Mexico to convert the facilityin order to allow the use of cheaper coke of coal as a fuel in replacement of fuel oil. And those responsible for this conversion are French Alstom and Spanish Isolux Corsán.
The Spanish origin Group Isolux Corsáncand the French multinational Alstom have signed a contract worth 280 million euro (190 million for Isolux and 90 million for Alstom) with the Federal Electricity Commission ( CFE) of Mexico for the conversion to coke of coal of units I and II (158 MW each) at the Altamira Thermal Power Plant.
This Mexican plant currently uses fuel oil as fuel and, through this project, will use coking coal, significantly reducing operating costs due lower prices of this material. It will be the first time that a conversion of such kind is carried out in Mexico.
The project awarded to Isolux and Alstom includes design, engineering, manufacturing, construction and installation of equipment, electromechanical, civil, instrumentation and control works, as well as the rehabilitation and upgrading of these units to extend their life by an additional 30 years.
Alstom will supply the core technology, which includes two CFB boilers (Fluid bed). Isolux, as prime contractor and leader of the consortium will be responsible for the integration of this technology with other supplies and works to complete the project.
90% reduction in SO2
This conversion falls within the commitments established in the National Energy Strategy of Mexico 2013-2027, which aims to foster a cleaner generation of electricity through among other actions improving the efficiency of existing thermal power plants. Once the project is completed, the Altamira power plant will have its sulfur dioxide emissions (SO2) reduced by 90 %.
Furthermore, as announced by the plant’s senior responsible, during the works over a thousand direct jobs and between 3,000 and 4,000 indirect will be created.
This plant will minimize the environmental damage since the energy will be generated under sustainable standards thanks to the use of boilers that are “friendly” with the environment, reducing carbon dioxide emissions through operation at low temperatures. Moreover, the generators are steam operated which allows a maximum control of sulfur dioxide emissions while sulfur emissions are totally inhibited by using limestone in the process.
Gases washing tanks will be installed in the future complex constituting a unique and novel process in Mexico.
What is coking coal?
Coke is a distillate fuel that comes from bituminous coal. During the process, volatile matter in the coal is removed leaving a high quality fuel, almost pure carbon, called coke which is highly useful in the steel industry, although it has many features such as the case of the Altamira thermal power plant in Mexico. It has a high calorific value and is less polluting.
Besides the price of coal in international markets is relatively inexpensive with downward trend (the price of Australia’s premium coking coal has suffered a cumulative drop of 13 % so far this year) due to its wide availability compared to other fossil fuels, and it is also stable as extractions mainly come from countries with strong political and social situations.
In addition, Japan and South Korea , the largest consumers after China, prefer to secure fixed prices using long-term contracts, rather than buying coking coal in the spot market, which means it is less volatile than other fuels.