The potential of retrofitting existing coal power plants: a case study for operation with green iron

J. Janicka, Paulo Amaral Debiagi, A. Scholtissek, A. Dreizler, B. Epple, R. Pawellek, A. Maltsev, C. Hasse

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Storing electrical energy for long periods and transporting it over long distances is an essential task of the necessary transition to a CO2-free energy economy. An oxidation–reduction cycle based on iron and its oxides represents a very promising technology in this regard. The present work assesses the potential of converting an existing modern coal-fired power plant to operation with iron. For this purpose, a systematic retrofit study is carried out, employing a model that balances all material and energy fluxes in a state-of-the-art coal-fired power plant. Particular attention is given to components of the burner system and the system's heat exchanger. The analysis provides evidence that main components such as the steam generator and steam cycle can be reused with moderate modifications. Major modifications are related to the larger amounts of solids produced during iron combustion, for instance in the particle feeding and removal systems. Since the high particle densities and lower demand for auxiliary systems improve the heat transfer, the net efficiencies of iron operation can be one to two percentage points better than coal operation, depending on operating conditions. This new insight can significantly accelerate the introduction of this innovative technology by guiding future research and the development of the retrofit option.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120950
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • Clean energy
  • CO-free
  • Energy Storage
  • Iron cycle
  • Metal fuels
  • Power plant retrofit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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