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DOE to award up to $100M for future coal plants in Coal FIRST initiative

The US Department of Energy (DOE) intends to provide up to $100 million in awards (DE-FOA-0002116) for the Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, and Transformative) initiative (announced in November 2018), which aims to develop coal plants of the future that will provide secure, stable, reliable power with near-zero emissions. In 2017, coal was the second-largest energy source for electricity generation in the United States.

Under the Coal FIRST initiative, DOE is supporting research and development (R&D) projects that will help develop plants that:

  • Are capable of flexible operations to meet the needs of the grid;

  • Use innovative and cutting-edge components that enable improved efficiency and have near zero emissions with CO2 capture;

  • Provide resilient power;

  • Are small compared to today’s conventional utility-scale coal; and

  • Transform how coal power plant technologies are designed and manufactured.

DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has issued a Notice of Intent for an upcoming Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), called Critical Components for Coal FIRST Power Plants of the Future. This anticipated FOA will make available up to approximately $100 million in federal funding for cost-shared R&D projects that focus on developing the critical components required by Coal FIRST systems.

If needed, the R&D projects may include the development of advanced processes for manufacturing or fabricating components. FE anticipates issuing the FOA in August or September 2019.

Specific Areas of Interest in the FOA will be informed by conceptual studies and preliminary front end engineering and design (pre-FEED) studies that FE expects to be ongoing throughout FY19.

Separately, DOE also announced the selection of 13 projects to receive approximately $1.95 million in federal funding for conceptual designs under the request for proposals for Coal-Based Power Plants of the Future. DOE has the option to request that any of the projects conduct pre-FEED studies to prove the technical and economic feasibility of the approach identified in the conceptual design.

Earlier in April, the DOE announced up to $87.3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects for advanced coal technologies and research.

The R&D projects for coal-fueled power plants and technologies will fall under five separate funding opportunity announcements (FOAs):

Advancing Steam Turbine Performance for Coal Boilers. (DE-FOA-0001996) This FOA seeks to improve the performance of steam-based power cycles, resulting in a lower cost of electricity with reduced emissions per megawatt-hour for coal-fueled boilers. This FOA also includes an area of interest for conceptual engineering design for steam turbines in the 50–350 MW range in support of DOE’s Coal FIRST initiative. DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) Advanced Turbines Program will support these projects. DOE Funding: Up to $22 million.

Transformational Sensing Systems for Monitoring the Deep Subsurface. (DE-FOA-0001998) This FOA seeks to reduce uncertainty and enable real-time decision making associated with subsurface carbon dioxide storage. FE’s Carbon Storage Research Program will support these projects. DOE Funding: Up to $4.8 million.

Crosscutting Research for Coal-Fueled Power Plants. (DE-FOA-0002001) This FOA aims to develop innovative technologies that will enhance the performance and economics of the existing and future coal fleet—thereby lowering electricity costs for consumers. FE’s Crosscutting Research Program will support these projects. DOE Funding: Up to $14.5 million.

Advanced Materials for High-Efficiency, Flexible and Reliable Coal-Fueled Power Plants. (DE-FOA-0002002) This FOA will reduce the cost and enhance the cyclic durability of materials used in advanced ultrasupercritical power plants. These advanced materials are critical to increasing the efficiency and reliability of coal-fueled power plants. FE’s Advanced Materials Program will support these projects. DOE Funding: Up to $26 million.

Process Scale-Up and Optimization/Efficiency Improvements for Rare Earth Elements (REE) and Critical Materials (CM) Recovery from Coal-Based Resources. (DE-FOA-0002003) This FOA will support cooperative agreements to advance the development of technologies for recovery REEs and CMs from domestic coal-based resources through both novel and conventional extraction, separation, and recovery processes. FE’s Feasibility of Recovering Rare Earth Elements Program will support these projects. DOE Funding: Up to $20 million.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage all of the selected projects.



Tax $$$ in the wrong place at the wrong time?


They are running $1 trillion deficits but give away $100 million for this?

Even with this slush fund, coal research is a bad career move for three reasons:

Coal is already uncompetitive on price, and becoming more so every year.

The next administration is likely to reverse course on coal policy.

What will you tell your grandkids you did for a living?

Coal is a technological dead end.


One more nonsensical decision by the Republican Trump administration to satisfy the fossil fuel interests who paid for their election.
The least publicized reason to kill coal is the mountains of toxic ash that have been collecting for decades at the power plant locations...when the taxpayers and ratepayers get the bills to clean up all these polluted sites perhaps they will see how stupid the decisions to support coal really are.


The government paid to pick up the ash during W, another form of subsidy.


coal has no future for many reasons.
These technologies, however, will be useful for many other applications.

Higher efficiency steam turbines will be useful for nuclear and concentrated solar.

materials for ultrasupercritical powerplants is also good for high-temperature nuclear, and high-temperature electrolysis.

subsurface carbon storage will be needed to actively lower atmospheric CO2 using direct air capture or CCS of biomass/waste.

recovery of rare earth elements or toxic heavy metals from coal ash can be done with the megatons of coal ash we already have, or to extract those elements from low-quality ores.

If some politicians like to sell the development of those technologies as "coal promotion" for political reasons, I grant them the pleasure. At least it will be used for entirely different applications, and it is not immediately harmful to the planet.

By the time these technologies are developed, and coal is history, they will be used in advanced nuclear plants, concentrated solar plants, high-temperature electrolysis, wind turbines, electric cars and geoengineering.
Those technologies may even hasten the end of natural gas.

At least coal proponents can do a last useful act before finally admitting it's over.


You know thosenights at the pub and people are just talking shite as usual?
I feel sorry for you!
Coal will always have more value in the ground than out.

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