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ANALYSIS: German 4 GW new coal plants in testing after first fire

Five new coal-fired power plants in Germany with a combined capacity of around 4 GW have had their "first fire" over recent weeks and will be generating electricity in the hot testing phase over the next couple of months, according to a Platts survey of the five plant operators. The projects include RWE's Hamm D unit (800 MW), EnBW's RDK 8 (912 MW), Vattenfall's first block at Hamburg-Moorburg (840 MW), Steag's Walsum 10 unit (725 MW) and GDF Suez's new coal-fired power plant at Wilhelmshaven (800 MW).

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Trianel's new 750-MW coal-fired plant at Luenen is already in operation and on track to be commissioned in the third quarter.

RWE's 1.6-GW new-build project at Hamm is progressing with the first 800 MW unit (Block D) already in the testing phase after having its "first fire" on May 30 and the second unit not far behind, according to RWE Generation spokeswoman Stephanie Schunck. Steag's Walsum 10 unit has already produced electricity, the company said, adding that 175 MW of power were fed into the grid on June 10 with further tests at different output levels over the coming weeks.

Vattenfall's project at Hamburg-Moorburg is also entering the final phase of tests after "first fire" at the end of July with full grid synchronization of block B scheduled for the autumn, according to Stefan Kleimeier, a spokesman for the German unit of the Swedish utility.


EnBW's new RDK 8 project at Karslruhe also had its "first fire" in June when fuel-oil generated steam for the first time, before further tests with coal in coming weeks, it said.

According to EnBW, the RDK 8 unit will be the world's most-efficient hard-coal power plant with an efficiency rating of 46%.

That compares to an industry-average of around 35-38% for coal-fired power plants over the past decades in Germany. RWE also claims a 46% net efficiency rating for its Hamm plant.

At the same electricity production, the new plant will require 20% less coal, reducing CO2 emissions by an annual 2.5 million mt compared with legacy plants, RWE said on its website. GDF Suez's Wilhelmshaven project successfully passed the pressure test of the boiler and is on track for a start-up date before the end of the year, according to spokeswoman Alexa Schroeder.

Overall, German power plant operators will add 7.3 GW of new coal-fired capacity by 2015, including the second units at Hamm and Moorburg (2014) as well as the 900 MW GKM 9 at Mannheim (2015).

E.ON's Datteln 4 plant, which has been constructed, but which has to re-apply for permissions may add another 1 GW before Germany's first nuclear reactor will be take offline by the end of 2015 under the country's nuclear phase-out plan.

Most of these coal projects were planned almost a decade ago after Germany decided for the first time to exit nuclear power. A number of projects were delayed due to quality problems with the so-called T24 steel used for the boilers. Others faced lengthy delays in the environmental permitting process.

Overall, Germany's coal-fired power plants (including lignite) contributed more than 50% to the nation's electricity demand in the first half of this year as output from natural gas-fired power plants and wind turbines dropped, according to an analysis of data that German think-tank Fraunhofer Institute collected.

Hard-coal plants alone increased production by 8.5% to 65.8 TWh in the first seven months of 2013, with only lignite-fired power plants generating more electricity in Germany so far this year, the latest data shows.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@platts.com
--Edited by Jonathan Dart, jonathan.dart@platts.com