In 1991, the National Energy Board estimated that, for the period between 1989 and 2010, the annual load growth rate for electricity in Alberta would be 1.4%. This represents an average annual growth of 82.5 MW/a. Traditionally, past coal-fired generation plants in Alberta have been constructed large units that need substantial capital outlay and long construction times, often in excess of five years. Most coal-fired units currently operating within Alberta are large having a net installed capacity between 280 and 386 MW. Until recently, little attention and/or effort has been paid to the smaller coal fired unit that combine low power plant capital investment with quick construction times in the order of 1 to 2 years, Today independent power producers in the USA are currently building and economically operating smaller units; these units have smaller generating capacities and range between 35 and 110 MW. There may be opportunities to fill this future potential new generating capacity through the construction and commissioning of small, coal-fired units in Alberta.
This study focuses on the selection and identification of key coal deposits, within the Plains Region of southern Alberta, which could favourably produce coal for a small, mine-mouth, coal-fired generating station (in Part 1). The areas of coal development would tend to be much smaller and very shallow compared to those previously identified in the 1960's and 70's for traditional large coal-fired generating station.
Part 2 of this study (Lutley, 1994) addresses the capital and operating costs of establishing a surface coal mine within each of the selected target areas. The levelized cost of coal for the each of the target areas is similar to the derived cost of coal from selected existing small coal mines in Alberta and Saskatchewan and falls in the range currently seen for large scale coal mines supplying coal to large thermal power plants in the province. The cost of the province. The cost of the fuel at approximately $0.70 per GJ should not be an impediment to further consideration of the development of small scale coal fired power projects in Alberta/ In view of power plant capital cost savings and the ability to site power projects closer to areas of power demand (because in part of the areal distribution of smaller reserves of coal) scale coal fired power projects may be very competitive with other energy options.
Future work includes additional geological field programs within the representative target areas to better define the coal occurrences including addressing the extent and impact of oxidized coal. Build or enhance the available coal quality in each target area. Create a similar study to determine the potential of the Foothills and Mountains regions of southern Alberta (ie, Crowsnest Pass area) and selected areas of northern Alberta. Define more exactly where small power generation units may be required within the province and then, if geological data is limited, through exploration determine if a small scale coal fired power unit can be supported. Conduct a detailed review of current TransAlta Utilities Corporation coal holdings to identify specific areas of potential.
Richardson, R.J.H., Chao, D.K., Fietz, D.W. and Lutley, H.J. (1994): Small coal-fired generation study, a data review, parts 1 and 2; Alberta Research Council, ARC/AGS Open File Report 1996-03, 680 p.