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Showing posts with the label clean coal

Clean Coal on the Ropes

Clean coal is a seductive proposition for arresting climate change.  It means we could continue to burn coal for power as usual and use carbon capture and storage (CCS) to remove carbon dioxide from the flue gas and bury it underground.  Carbon capture is actually a mature technology, widely used in natural gas processing, where gas is bubbled through a liquid amine mixture which chemically binds to carbon dioxide, letting the desired gas pass through.  The amine solvent is then heated to liberate relatively pure carbon dioxide.
Companies and governments invested in coal have devoted massive resources to try and adapt carbon capture technology for coal fired power, with the typical approach being to bolt on a conventional amine solvent plant to an existing power station.  This approach has, however, failed to succeed.  The Boundary Dam project, a flagship effort aiming to demonstrate that CCS is feasible on an industrial scale, was plagued by budget overruns during construction, and

Carbon Capture Squeezed

Attempts to realise carbon capture and storage (CCS) continue apace, in an effort to keep burning fossil fuels in a low-carbon future.  They may, however, be dead on arrival.

When it comes to electricity generation, renewables are already squeezing out conventional coal fired power plants on cost.  Adding in the extra expense of separating out the carbon dioxide emissions, compressing them, and then pumping them underground, only makes coal's job that much harder.  Moreover, the few commercial CCS ventures to date have mostly come in late and over budget, if at all.  Now the Boundary Dam Carbon Capture project in Saskatchewan has shown that operating costs for these facilities are also difficult to keep a lid on.  Significantly, Boundary Dam was touted as the world's first commercial power plant running carbon capture and storage.

The only future for coal seems to lie with radical departures from how we now burn it, such as chemical looping combustion.  However, given that ou…

Another Dirty Side to Coal

Coal is dirty and it can't be cleaned.
We just saw another facet of this problem when particulate matter reached hazardous levels across much of the Hunter Valley on Monday.  Specifically, PM10 levels (the concentration in air of particles 10 micrometers and smaller) were reported to have exceeded national air quality standards at all nine monitoring stations in the coal mining hub of the Upper Hunter.  The cause, not surprisingly, looks to be coal mining.
Although carbon dioxide is the pollutant of most concern from coal, there are a range of air quality issues that arise from the mining, transport, and burning of this fossil fuel.  Even if we do manage to remove CO2 from the emissions of coal fired power stations we can't guarantee that other pollution sources will be eliminated, and this is why "clean coal" is a fallacy.  The mining and transportation of coal, as we saw on Monday, releases dangerous particles into the air.  These particles have both acute and chr…