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Warwick team get fired up about coal mill monitoring

22 June 2011

Coal power station

A new system designed to improve coal mill operating safety in power stations has been awarded a proof of concept grant by Warwick Ventures Ltd. This grant will enable vital performance trials at an operating UK power station.

Coal mills are used at power stations to pulverize coal to a fine powder so that it can be fed into boilers in a controlled manner. However, it is very difficult to monitor and control the conditions inside the mill, which can make their operation inefficient and can also lead to the mill becoming inoperable. Sometimes, it can cost a power station over a million pounds a year to maintain their mills in an operational condition.

In addition, strict government legislation requires power stations to add biomass materials to the coal and this, along with the variable quality of coal used, makes it even harder to control the process.

Professor Jihong Wang and Dr Jianlin Wei, from the University of Warwick’s School of Engineering, have developed computer software that can accurately predict conditions inside the coal mills. The system can give detailed information about how much coal is inside the mill, identify variations in quality and detect any abnormal behaviour.

Warwick Ventures Ltd, the University of Warwick’s technology commercialisation company, has awarded Professor Wang’s team a proof of concept grant, which will allow the team to demonstrate how effective the system is in a real power station.

“Coal preparation is the first step for the whole power generation process” Professor Wang explained. “It directly influences combustion efficiency and power quality. We have designed a system which can monitor mill performance and enhance mill control functions. In order to exploit it we need to prove it gives accurate and reliable results. This grant will enable us to test the system in a real UK power station.”

Kevin Marks, Business Development Manager at Warwick Ventures, says: “This system should lead to significant savings in coal usage and CO2 emissions and we are delighted to help get it into use”.

“At Warwick Ventures we are tasked with finding ways to bring the benefits of Warwick’s research out into society. Awarding proof of concept grants like this one is just one of the ways in which we can help.”