PLANS are underway to build the biggest clean-coal plant in the world in the Egyptian town of Hamrawein at a cost of $4.4bn. It is expected to generate a massive seven gigawatts of power when it becomes operational in 2024, while meeting environmental standards that will reduce emissions from coal burning, such as carbon dioxide.
‘This will be the world’s most advanced ultra-supercritical clean-coal plant,’ said Zou Lei, Chairman of the Dongfang Electric Corporation, which is among the group of Chinese companies to undertake the project funded by Egyptian and Chinese banks.
The plant, 600kms south east of Cairo, will generate 40 per cent more power than the dry-cooled coal-fired Medupi Power Station in South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
Professor Rosemary Falcon of Wits University in South Africa told CAJ News in Johannesburg that the Egyptian project would be the perfect place to show how clean coal can help achieve the goal of lower emissions under the Paris Accord on climate change.
‘A country like Egypt, with nearly 100 million people, needs a lot of base-load power that doesn’t go off,’ Prof. Falcon said. ‘Wind and solar are fine, but they only work when the wind blows or the sun shines. And you need vast areas of land to house them.’
Advanced technology is making coal production today less of a problem with pollution than in the past.
‘Those days are thankfully behind us with the new clean technology,’ Prof. Falcon said. ‘We can now burn it with close to zero emission and I look forward to following the project in Egypt.’
Like many African countries, Egypt is facing power shortages that are holding back economic progress. Egypt suffered a shortage of electricity in 2014 of 6,000 megawatts, amounting to one quarter of its production, according to Ayman Hamzah, an official at the country’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy.
For these countries, coal is one option in the bid to provide constant electricity that will be in line with the socio-economic transformation of the continent under the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Egypt, though, does not have active coal mines and so it plans to import the fossil fuel from South Africa and Indonesia until its own mining operations take off. The Egyptian authorities say they will also turn to Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe for future coal supplies.
Tanzania has its own coal-powered generator near the Mozambique border while Kenya is building one near Lamu on the coast.
These coal projects that are blossoming across the continent are also aimed at providing electricity to the more than 600 million people in Africa who do not have access to power.
‘Coal is by far the cheapest and most secure way to create a reliable supply of current,’ Prof. Falcon told CAJ News. ‘And Egyptians have as much right to electricity as anyone else.
“This is something many in the developed world take for granted and, if there’s a sadness, it’s that turning on the lights across Africa has taken so long,’ she added.