7 November 2012 – Countries are attempting to balance global warming with the continued use of fossil fuels, by developing clean coal technologies, says energy expert GlobalData. While coal is the most commonly used source of energy for electricity generation globally, it is also the least clean energy source in the world, releasing a number of pollutants such as mercury, sulphur, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide (CO2) when burnt. The damage caused to human health and the environment by these pollutants has driven nations to demand cleaner power generation.

However, the rising population and high rate of industrialisation, especially in developing countries, is driving up the demand for electricity, and since coal is an economical source of power generation with abundant resources, it has remained a prominent energy source globally. Although the focus on renewable sources of energy is increasing, it has been difficult for a major shift towards alternative sources to take place, as generation using these sources is still too expensive and unreliable.

The term clean coal refers to the minimisation of carbon emissions and other pollutants from coal usage in power generation, with the aim of limiting these negative effects. Supercritical (SC), ultra-supercritical (USC), circulating fluidised bed (CFB) and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technologies are becoming more widely used for new build coal burning power plants. These technologies provide improved power generation output through increased efficiency and produce lower emissions in comparison to traditional subcritical technology. Between 2006 and 2010, around 295 GW of clean coal capacity, based on SC, USC, CFB and IGCC, was installed. Coal-fired capacity additions based on SC technology dominated clean coal capacity additions, with China driving the market, and India expected to follow suit in the future.

China is thought to have accounted for 73% of global clean coal additions between 2006 and 2010, and the country is set to lead the global market in the future. A substantial amount of SC and USC capacity is expected to come online, supported by Chinese government mandates, while IGCC technology will also see substantial additions during 2012 to 2020.

The installed capacity of coal-fired power plants worldwide grew from 1,263 GW in 2005 to an estimated 1,700 GW in 2011, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1%. In the future too, coal fired installed capacity will continue witnessing growth, though at a slower rate.