Pulverized Coal Technologies

Coal has long been one of the lowest-cost fuels to produce electricity in the United States. Not only has coal provided consumers with reliable, affordable power, it has also spurred economic growth in areas where it is plentiful. Most coal-fired plants are located in coal-producing regions and are important sources of jobs and economic stability.

The broadening scope and increasing stringency of environmental regulations aimed at coal-fueled power generation continue to pose technical and financial challenges to the electric utility industry. These challenges are driving decisions to install additional control technologies or retire existing coal-fired generating units, and are strongly influencing the planning of new generation projects.

Supercritical technology

In a pulverized coal (PC) plant, the coal is ground into fine particles and blown into a furnace where combustion takes place. The heat from the combustion of coal is used to generate steam to supply a steam turbine that drives a generator to make electricity.

Subcritical steam generation units operate at pressures such that water boils first and then is converted to superheated steam. They are primarily used for intermediate-load and base-load generation.

At supercritical and ultra-supercritical pressures, water is heated to produce superheated steam without boiling.

Ultra-supercritical technology

Ultra-supercritical (USC) steam generation currently is the most efficient commercially available technology for producing electricity from pulverized coal. Advancements in materials have enabled the safe operation of USC cycles at high temperatures and pressures, resulting in increased unit efficiency. This increase in efficiency reduces fuel (coal) consumption, and thereby reduces emissions, solid waste, water use and operating costs.

Our decision to build the 600- megawatt (MW) John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant in southwestern Arkansas exemplifies our continued commitment to the responsible use of coal as a fuel source. The Turk Plant, completed in 2012, is the first coal-fired plant AEP built in more than two decades and the only operating U.S. power plant to use USC technology. Turk is among the nation’s cleanest, most efficient pulverized coal plants. Turk began commercial operation in December 2012, after a variety of regulatory and legal challenges were resolved, and Turk was officially dedicated in April 2013. AEP SWEPCO and the Turk Plant received several esteemed industry awards in 2013, including:

Technology Operating conditions
Subcritical 2,400 pounds per square-inch gauge (psig)/1,000ºF superheated steam, with a single reheat to 1,000ºF.
Supercritical 3,600 psig, with 1,000ºF – 1,050ºF main steam and reheat steam conditions.
Ultrasupercritical Pressures above 3,600 psig and temperatures above 1,100 ºF.
U.S. Electricity Generation by Fuel, All Sectors
AEP’s John W Turk, Jr. Power Plant
  • Edison Electric Institute's (EEI) Edison Award, the electric power industry's most prestigious honor, for the completion and commercial operation of the plant
  • Power Engineering Magazine's "Best Coal-fired Project" for its cleaner, more efficient source of power generation and new technology, and the magazine's "Plant of the Year" award
  • Engineering News Record Texas & Louisiana Magazine's "Best Project Winner" in the Energy/Industrial category and "Best Safety Award" winner by for its outstanding construction quality and craftsmanship, and the high-priority safety culture of site management

Power generation at AEP

AEP believes strongly in the merits of fuel diversity in generating electricity. Today, coal-fueled power plants account for approximately 50 percent of AEP's owned generating capacity, while natural gas represents 28 percent and nuclear 6 percent. The remaining capacity comes from wind, hydro, pumped storage and other sources, including energy efficiency. Since 2004, AEP has added nearly 5,000 MW of natural gas generating capacity to our portfolio. Through 2026, we project that new generating capacity additions to the fleet will likely be natural gasfueled and renewable (wind & solar).