Powerfuel, a UK energy owned by coal mining entrepreneur Richard Budge and KRU, Russia’s second biggest coal company, has moved a step closer to building what would be the world’s largest ‘clean coal’ power station, a 900 MW IGCC facility adjacent to the reopened Hatfield colliery in South Yorkshire, England

Tim Probert

The Hatfield Colliery in South Yorkshire, UK has a fascinating history. Coal has been extracted at Hatfield since 1921, sitting as it does on one of the best coal seams in the whole of the coal-rich UK – the Barnsley seam. The seam that most Hatfield miners dug, however, was not the Barnsley seam but the High Hazel seam some 70m higher. In this seam was found coal that burned particularly well in home fires, and it was this coal that was given free to workers with the then National Coal Board.

Powerfuel plans to build a combined cycle gas turbine and gasification combined cycle facility on the Hatfield colliery site burning coal from the re-opened colliery.
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The colliery was the scene of the some of the most fierce resistance to the great strike of the 1980s, when the UK government ordered a series of pit closures. Hatfield closed on economic grounds in 1993, but reopened a year later following a management buy-out. When the Hatfield Colliery Company went bankrupt in 2001, the colliery was bought up by UK coal entrepreneur Richard Budge’s Coalpower.

In December 2003, however, Coalpower itself went into administration and a month later Hatfield once again ceased production, for what appeared to be the final time. Budge knew, however, that Hatfield sat on 27 million tonnes of some of the best coal in the UK, so, instead of filling in the tunnels to prevent subsidence, he put steel caps in the shafts and bided his time.

In 2006 Budge announced the formation of Powerfuel PLC, and that Kuzbassrazrezugol (KRU), the second largest coal producer in Russia, had acquired a 51 per cent shareholding. In April 2007, Hatfield was again re-opened at a cost of £100m ($147m), half of which financed by the Russian state-owned VTB Bank. Furthermore, Powerfuel announced plans to sink a new shaft with the intention of cutting coal from the deeper, more valuable Barnsley seam.

Production is underway at Hatfield on a planned 25 faces, each typically a kilometre long. Each coal face contains in excess of a million tonnes, with weekly output of around 45 000 tonnes, producing annually over two million tonnes – enough to supply electricity to the nearby cities of Leeds and Sheffield simultaneously. Powerfuel has secured deals to supply one million tonnes of coal per annum to German utility E.ON UK’s Ironbridge and Ratcliffe power stations as well as the Drax power station at Selby.

The renewal of Hatfield colliery represents a triumph for the beleaguered UK coal industry, which, despite the significant energy reserves at its disposal, has been viewed by some as somewhat of an embarassment, an ultimately failed relic of the old Industrial Revolution. It is ironic, then, that Hatfield will the site of what promises to be a revolutionary power plant, at the cutting edge of modern technology.


Powerfuel is turning plain old Hatfield Colliery into Hatfield Power Park – comprising a combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant, an integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) facility, a 400 kV single-circuit overhead line and, of course, a coal mine with a newly sunk shaft.

In February, Mike O’Brien, the UK’s Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, granted (Section 36) consent to Powerfuel to build a 900 MW integrated coal gasification gas fired power station on the site of Hatfield Colliery. Powerfuel plans to construct the world’s first large-scale integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC), near zero emissions power station with carbon capture capability in two phases.

Phase I involves the construction of a 800 MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) facility that has been designed and optimised for ‘syngas’ conversion and operation. Powerfuel plans to convert the CCGT plant into a 900 MW IGCC near zero emissions power station fuelled by the reopened Hatfield colliery in Phase II of the project.

During Phase I, the CCGT power station will be powered and supplied by way of a natural gas pipeline connection to the National Transmission System (NTS) 11 km from the Hatfield site.

Construction work at the CCGT power station, which will use established and proven gas turbines supplied by GE Energy, is expected to begin in June 2009 and complete at the beginning of 2012, at which time the already agreed grid connection for the export of electricity, will be available.

Jacobs Engineering Group has been contracted to provide the front-end engineering and design (FEED) for the project. A significant majority of the construction costs for Phase I will be under fixed price agreements with a highly experienced engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) provider.

IGCC construction

The IGCC plant (Phase II) will take coal/water slurry and oxygen and pump it into a gasifier, where it will be converted into syngas before being treated for impurities and eventually burnt in place of natural gas. This process will also produce chemicular by-products that could be sold to pharmaceutical companies and other industries.

The gasification technology, which will be utilized in phase II of the project, is licensed from Shell and will capture approximately 90 per cent of potential carbon emissions from coal, which can then be removed for sequestration. Further, a letter of intent has been signed with Air Products to build, own and operate the air separation unit. The resulting syngas (virtually pure hydrogen), when burned in the gas turbines, will primarily emit water vapour. When fully operational, the plant will save around 5 million tonnes of carbon from being emitted.

The Hatfield Colliery was re-opened in 2007 after numerous closures in the 1990s and early 2000s.
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The Shell coal gasification process has been developed from research conducted by the oil company in 1956. The “dry feed” process partially combusts the coal in oxygen to produce syngas, which is rich in hydrogen and carbon monoxide and contains about 80 per cent of the coal’s original energy.

About 15 per cent of the pressurised steam from the gasification process is recovered to drive turbines. The hydrogen in the syngas drives separate turbines. The process facilitates the separation of CO2 precombustion in the turbine generators. The technology has been licensed more than 40 times globally.

The site is conveniently located in South Yorkshire to provide access to the North Sea for storage of CO2 following capture. Indeed, the density of existing and planned CO2 emissions will certainly enable the development of a cluster of CCS projects in the Yorkshire and Humberside region.


The proposed development involves the erection of a total of 30 towers (pylons) on land between the Hatfield Power Park and the old Thorpe Marsh Power Station. The towers will support the single circuit 400 kV overhead transmission line running for a distance of approximately 9.5 km.

It is proposed that three types of tower design will be required: the termination tower, the angle line tower design and the standard line tower design. The termination towers measure approximately 44 m high, the angle line towers measure approximately 36 m high and the standard line towers stand slightly taller at 39 m high. Each is designed to suspend a single circuit 400 kV transmission line.

With an onsite coal mine, Hatfield Power Park will have a long-term supply of good quality from which to produce the syngas. Thus, says Powerfuel, it will avoid the need for the order of two million tonnes per annum of coal to be transported by either rail or road to the traditional coal-burning stations in the region.

As the application to build Hatfield Power Park involves a proposed increase in energy generating capacity of the consented station from 430 MW to 900 MW, with the initial firing of the CCGT plant, updated environmental impact assessments were undertaken to account for the increased plant size.

Air Quality

The air quality assessment addressed the impact of the Hatfield Power Park proposal on local ecology, through the potential deposition of nitrogen and sulphur on the Hatfield and Thorne Moors Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). Consideration was also given to the potential effects on climate change.

Based on ‘worst case’ computer modelling, the findings and conclusions of the air quality assessment found that the impact on local air quality from construction and decommissioning would be temporary and could be restricted to acceptable levels.

It was found that there would be a traffic impact using the existing highway or via the proposed link road to the Power Park development, although it was estimated that there would no breaches of the UK government’s air quality standards (AQS) legislation.

During operation of the power station, with its stack height of 88 m and burning either natural gas or syngas, no breaches of AQS are predicted, and no substantial impacts are predicted for the Hatfield and Thorne Moors SAC.

The operation of the generating station will result in only a minor direct adverse environmental impact. Regional benefits from the proposed development in terms of air quality are likely to arise from the use of modern, high-efficiency technology which can realistically be expected to displace older, less efficient coal burning power stations in the electricity generating mix in the UK.

Noise and Vibration

The assessment for noise and vibration considered the potential construction and operational impacts arising from the proposed power station. Measurements were taken at various sensitive receptors in the vicinity of the site.

The predicted noise and vibration impacts from the construction of the plant are likely to arise from the piling and earthworks in the worst case, as the other phases of construction are likely to be much quieter. The noise impact for the construction phase of the plant is considered to be minor and temporary for those receptors located closest to the site.

It is envisaged that the plant will be operational on a continuous basis. Regular meetings were held with the local community to address any issues to do with the operation of the plant. Noise mitigation measures and the employment of the best available techniques will ensure the operational noise and vibration levels are kept to a minimum, according to Powerfuel.

CCS funding

Richard Budge had been hopeful that Hatfield would be a potential candidate for the UK’s £600m ($880m) CCS competition until London decided to exclude pre-combustion projects on the grounds that post-combustion technology could be retrofitted to existing, or at least ‘CCS ready’, coal/gas fired power plants. British chemical engineers feel that coal gasification has a vital role to play in the climate change agenda and excluding pre-combustion carbon capture from the competition was foolish.

However, in April the UK announced that up to four CCS plants will now receive funding, including pre-combustion projects, of which Hatfield is the front-runner. Richard Budge says that, unlike ‘capture ready’ plants, the completed Hatfield IGCC will capture carbon from the day is starts operation, in 2012.

“We plan to capture and bury five million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. We’d use it for enhanced oil recovery, pumping it into depleted oil wells and gas fields in the North Sea. I don’t need any of the 600 million pounds for the power station. We need it for the carbon capture and storage infrastructure,” he said.

Powerfuel has also looked to the European Union for support. More than €250m ($330m) has been earmarked from a two-year, Europe-wide scheme to invest €1.25bn in CCS projects at five European sites.