Fuel switching to end coal usage in peninsula by 2023

Coal generates about 2/3 of Peninsular Malaysia’s electricity demand. We burn 37.4 million metric tonnes of coal annually. Utilising coal for electricity generation needs to stop as coal emits more carbon than any other type of fossil fuel, contributing to the climate crisis.

Peninsular Malaysia has about 12,066MW of coal power plants which disproportionately generates more electricity because coal is utilised for baseload powerplants.

Foreign coal is imported from Indonesia (66.5%), Australia (19.1%), Russia (12.8%) and South Africa (1.6%). TNB will spend about RM150 billion to import coal for this decade (2021-2030) representing a huge outflow of foreign currency.

The 40-year-old Kapar Energy Venture in Selangor is the oldest one. This can be closed instantly by ending the power purchase agreement. Closing the newer coal power plants instantly is financially unviable as the newest is just under 2 years old. For these power plants fuel switching is a potential option.

Fuel switching modifies the coal power plants into gas power plants. Gas power plants emit 50% less carbon emission than coal for each unit of electricity. Fuel switching requires replacing the coal combustion chamber with a combined cycle gas turbine. The power plant must be connected to the Peninsular Gas Utilisation (PGU) gas pipeline network for fuel input.

Fuel switching would require about a year and these power plants would not be able to operate during this period. Peninsular Malaysia’s projected reserve margin for the years 2021 to 2025 is between 36%-48%, way above the recommended reserve margin of 15%. Reserve margin is the measurement of available standby peaking power plants.

Peninsula Malaysia’s Projected Reserve Margin (2020-2030)
Source: Energy Commission, 2020

Taking out the coal baseload power plants for fuel switching will not cause any sudden electricity shortage. Generally, the standby gas peaking power plants are aging and inefficient. Certain aging standby gas power plants could be decommissioned after fuel-switching of the coal powerplants.

The major capital costs for fuel switching will the combined cycle gas turbine and the gas pipelines. Petronas should be instructed to fund the fuel switching process. Petronas will be the prime beneficiary of fuel switching due to an increase in fossil-gas sales.

Malaysia could burn bio-methane (bio-gas) generated from agricultural waste, sewerage gas, landfills, palm oil mill effluent (POME) and cattle manure. Bio-methane could reduce the overall demand of fossil-methane.

In 2018, researchers from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) had estimated that bio-methane could generate about 12,641 GWh, equivalent to 8.7% of Malaysia’s overall electricity demand.

Written by:

National Coordinator
Bureau for Environment & Climate Crisis
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

One Comment Add yours

  1. Simon Tan says:

    Good medium term solution,
    1) lower CO2 emission
    2) Save foreign exchange
    3) part of Petronas strategy, do check if they have enough gas supply and pipeline flow rate for coal to NG switch
    4) encourage FIT for bio methane
    5) another industry to promote is goat farming, the goat dung easily collected and composted. believe 90% of mutton, lamb and sheep meat are imported.

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