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Egat Vows to Adopt Japan’s Coal-use Policies

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THE ELECTRICITY Generating Authority of Thailand plans to adopt for its four new coal-fired power plants techniques deployed effectively in Japan, to assure the Thai public of minimum environmental impacts. Each of the four new plants will produce 800 megawatts of power.

According to Rangsan Athamanolap, Egat’s assistant governor for corporate social affairs, coal will remain a major fuel for generating electricity, given its low price that will translate into affordable power for all. More coal-fired power plants would also ensure energy security, given that natural gas – a depleting resource – now accounts for 70 per cent of the fuel generating the Kingdom’s electricity.

Tatree Riewcharoen, head of Egat’s corporate communications division, said many existing power plants were in |need of replacement. A coal-fuelled plant’s life cycle is 30 years, compared with 40 years for nuclear and 25 years for natural gas.

Tatree emphasised the need to diversify sources for energy security because 70 per cent of the natural gas Egat used came from PTT’s sources in the Gulf of Thailand while 30 per cent was from Myanmar. The gulf’s current gas resources would be gone in 40 years, while the coal supply could last 150 years, he said.

A group of 35 stakeholders and journalists last week were taken to a thermal power station in Hekinan, Japan, to observe its efficient clean-coal practices. It is one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants, and the largest in Japan.

The operator, Chubu Electric Power – one of 10 electricity companies in Japan – now produces a total of 32,834.5MW or 15.8 per cent of the country’s power supply. Hekinan, in Aichi prefecture, is its only coal-fired power plant, generating 4,100MW or 12.5 per cent of capacity.

Built in 1991, the plant now has five generators on a compound covering 1.6 million square metres that also houses a yard able to hold 500,000 tonnes of bituminous coal.

Focusing one-fourth of its budget on emission controls, the plant keeps sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and soot emissions within the legal standard and the even-lower levels agreed with the city. It has a flue-gas denitrification facility to treat exhaust gas with ammonia to produce nitrogen and water, a flue-gas desulphurisation facility to treat sulphur oxides with limestone liquid and produce a gypsum by-product, and an electrostatic precipitator to reduce dust.

Before the plant was built, Chubu signed a contract with the Japanese government, the city of Hekinan and three nearby cities committing itself to environmental protection.

In return for their permission to build the plant, the central government allocated extra development funds to the cities. With 9 billion yen (Bt2.9 billion) from the government combined with money donated by Chubu, Hekinan invested in such public facilities as a 320-bed hospital. The city also earns 2 billion to 5 billion yen a year in property tax from the station, plus 10-per-cent income tax from its workforce of about 700.

Saying Hekinan was proud to have one of the largest and most advanced coal-fired electricity plants and urging Chubu to build one or two more units, Mayor Masanobu Negita said the plant had been a success because Chubu invested in good impact-reducing measures at the beginning. The station also allowed public access to information and test results and kept the city posted on a monthly basis, while the city could monitor the situation via a real-time application, he said.

Negita said Egat could learn from this. To win trust, it must be transparent and keep the public informed, while the communities must keep monitoring the situation.

Tatree said Hekinan’s system was similar to what Egat would do, equipping its new coal-fuelled plants with systems to handle soot, chemical emissions, wastewater and so on, because this was the international standard. Public access to information would also be provided.

Dr Sutha Khaodhiar, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Chulalongkorn University, urged Egat to put the concerns of local communities into the equation rather than focusing on science and to provide information willingly to clear away villagers’ doubts. When all sides have complete information, they will be able to make a decision together, because energy is not an issue just for individuals, but for the whole nation, he said.

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