We do not enter fuel quality data for our coal units. Should we?

That is a tough question. Typically, the reasons most companies do not enter fuel (primarily lignite and coal) quality data in GADS are: 

  • Too expensive or time-consuming to get all of the required as-burned information.
  • Can not get the fuel samples analyzed before the data is due into the GADS reporter.
  • Do not see a need to put it in GADS ("the plant knows how good/bad the fuel quality is").

Coal quality affects many aspects of power plant performance, notably, capacity, heat rate, availability, and maintenance. By collecting the fuel quality data, it may be possible to calculate the effects of fuel quality on unit performance from the GADS data. Attempts to derive availability and maintenance impacts have met with limited success throughout the years. Accurate correlations of these impacts will require development of a comprehensive utility database on coal quality, equipment failures, and maintenance costs.
A reasonable cost-benefit analysis should be done to determine if it is cost-effective to collect the data and expend the time and effort to perform an engineering analysis of the impacts before this question can be answered—the answer is probably unit-specific.
It is difficult to answer what is being reported in the "industry," but we suspect that less than 50% of the units (lignite and coal units) collect fuel quality data.
For more information on this subject, a good place to start is a four-volume EPRI document entitled "Effects of Coal Quality on Power Plant Performance and Costs" - EPRI CS-4283 (Project 2256-1).

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