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There are no quick fixes to long-term energy challenges. To find solutions, governments and industry benefit from sharing resources and accelerating results. For this reason the IEA enables independent groups of experts - the Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs1.

Fluidised Bed Conversion

Increase in the capacity of fluidised beds from pilot scale to commercial scale.*

Fuel flexibility and fewer emissions

Policy context
A fluidised bed is a unique reactor where the fuel that is burned is maintained in motion, circulating in a fluid motion in order to burn thoroughly. This process increases the efficiency of the reactor, and, more importantly, reduces the total greenhouse gas and particulate emissions. Burning coal with biomass in a fluidised bed reduces harmful emissions from the combustion of these fuels separately while at the same time reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from the coal. This technology has gradually improved and is now deployed on a commercial basis. However, continued R&D in this field is needed to further improve fuel combustion efficiency, maintaining high fuel flexibility at stringent greenhouse gas limits. Co-operation between researchers, industrial representatives and governmental programmes accelerates the knowledge base and technology deployment.

The goals of the ETI focusing on fluidised bed devices (FBC) are to advance the knowledge of national experts and industry professionals by sharing research results through regular symposia. There are currently 17 Contracting Parties, including China and Russia, and one Sponsor.

The mechanisms to exhibit FBC outcomes are the spring and fall conferences that highlight issues of importance to both academia and industry. These conferences provide an opportunity for technology transfer and knowledge exchange by developing the technology through industrial demonstration or by solving technical issues; improving environmental performance by substantially reducing emissions associated with conversion of coal, biomass and waste; networking with researchers and developers working in the field worldwide; and accelerating national research programmes through lessons learned.

The 2012 FBC conference focused on ‘Renewable Energy and Energy Recovery from Waste’. Reports at the 2012 conference underline recent interest in FBC technologies as a cost-effective way to tightly control CO2 emissions, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions. This avoids additional engineering, procurement and construction capital costs. As illustrated through expert reports at the annual FBC conferences 2010-12, FBC plant capacities have increased ten-fold between 1985 and 2010, moving from robust small-scale industrial boilers to commercialisation of the world's largest circulating fluidised bed boiler (CFB) in Poland (460 Megawatts of electricity [MWe]). Today, more than 70 CFB units rated above 300 MWe are operating worldwide, with a 600 MWe CFB beginning operations in China. An 800 MWe model is also now commercially available.

FBC and CFB technology is cost-competitive and could challenge traditional pulverised coal-fired power plants. The benefits include improved fuel burning efficiency, reduced emissions, and high fuel flexibility. FBC and CFB plants can accommodate all types of coal, peat or biomass (sludge, municipal waste, agricultural waste and wood chips), alone or in combination, offering long-term fuel security and market flexibility. The world’s largest (190 MWe) CFB boiler burning pure biomass, e.g. wood residues and agricultural waste, is beginning operation in Poland.

In addition, existing units have been successfully used for the disposal of contaminated wastes, oil remediation and the elimination of low-calorific wastes.

* Data courtesy of Foster Wheeler Global Power Group.

Current projects

  • Co-firing and ash problems
  • Energy crops and fluidised bed conversion
  • Fluidised bed design aspects
  • Mathematical, three-dimensional modelling
  • Recent trends in participating countries
  • Sewage sludge conversion

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1.Information or material of the IEA Energy Technology Initiatives, or ETIs (formally organised under the auspices of an Implementing Agreement), including information or material published on this website, does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or of the IEA’s individual Member countries. The IEA does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) in respect of such information (including as to its completeness, accuracy or non-infringement) and shall not be held liable for any use of, or reliance on, such information.