Clean Coal and Its Potential

Clean Coal and Its Potential
With the United States? increasing addiction for petroleum and imported energy, many organizations have begun to pressure government agencies to consider cleaner methods for fuel. As evident from recent government spending, the current administration favors the generation of electricity through a fossil fuel abundant in the United States; coal. Though coal is widely seen as a cheap source of energy, it contains many drawbacks: it?s emissions. Clean coal alternatives are available and they appear to have a promising future in the world of non-renewable energy. Coal, when used in the traditional manner, is the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. The combustion of coal releases a combination of harmful emissions into the surrounding atmosphere. These include but are not limited to NOx, SO2, CO2, and trace amounts of mercury (Rinstinen).
Effects of these emissions are seen in the accumulation of low-level ozone, global warming, and acid rain. Despite these devastating affects coal remains the largest single producer of energy in the US (Schobert). With so many coal burning plants already in operation, and the obvious benefits of coal?s energy potential, scientists have set out to harness coal?s good properties while at the same time protect the earth from it?s devastating short-comings. The answer to the current debate over coal?s future seems to lie in the idealist potential of Clean Coal. It?s potential is so great that President Bush has poured millions of dollars into the Federal Budget to stimulate Clean Coal development and initiatives. Currently, countless plants from the 1950?s and 1960?s have become decommissioned or are in need of replacements; the need to reinvestigate the way we consume coal is now even greater. Clean Coal isn?t one tangible entity however, it is an umbrella term used to describe processes of minimizing coal combustions effects on the surrounding environment. One popular method for producing cleaner coal combustion lies in treating the coal before it is sent to the factory or power plant. This entails taking the raw coal and pulverizing it. Afterwards, the coal is immersed into liquid of a specific density in order to make the coal float to the top, and impurities to the bottom (Clean Coal Technology: How it works). Though the precombustion treatment of coal can be extremely effective, it is but one stage of removing harmful compounds contained within the coal. In traditional coal burning plants, there are still harmful emissions of SO2 and NOx. To cut down on specific emissions of these gasses takes specialized equipment and engineering. Flu gas desulphersation systems are starting to be installed in smokestacks to limit SO2 emissions, the gas responsible for devastating acid rain (ccs). The stacks rely on ?scrubbers? that put the coal emissions through a mix of limestone and water. This reaction not only keeps Sulpher Dioxide out of the atmosphere, but also creates calcium sulphate (ccs). The calcium sulphate, known commonly as gypsum, is then used widely in the construction industry. Nitrogen oxide poses a great potential for harm by increasing the amount of low-level ozone gas. The removal of nitrogen oxide differs from the removal of sulpher dioxide emissions in that it is prevented during the combustion of the coal as opposed to after. To reduce NOx emissions, special ?low NOx burners? are used to control the amount of oxygen entering into the combustion. This reduces the amount of oxygen molecules the nitrogen is able to bond to, thus enabling for less dramatic post-combustion treatments of nitrogen oxide (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle). Perhaps the most daunting task of controlling the emissions associated with coal combustion is what to do with CO2. Carbon dioxide, as most people know, is the main greenhouse gas associated with the current trend of global warming. Coal combustion is one of the leading producers of carbon dioxide emissions each year, and a universal byproduct of fossil fuel combustion (Ristinen). In order to curb the tide of rising carbon dioxide emissions, many have suggested the idea of capturing and storing carbon onsite at power plants and industrial installations (ccs). Running a pipeline from the smokestack of a plant into underwater saline aquifers, or oil fields stores the carbon dioxide emissions away from the earth?s atmosphere. Currently there are 2 projects testing these types of coal storage. The Sleipner Project in the Norwegian Sea has begun channeling its carbon dioxide emissions into under water saline pools. At the same time, the Weyburn Project in Canada has begun to reroute its emissions into underground oil wells. It is theorized that running CO2 emissions into coal beds and oil wells improves the quality of oil and gas in their respective fields. Of course this process comes at a cost that at the present time seems too costly. However if the incentives of profit could have a wider vision, it would be generally regarded as a good investment to not simply live off the earth?s natural capital, but rather to reinvest in the resources we are extracting. In conclusion, the prospects of clean coal hold magnificent promise. If clean coal initiatives take off, countries will see a marked improvement in curbing emissions of not only NO2 and SO2, but also the now notorious greenhouse gas CO2. However, coal must be seen for what it is; a fossil fuel. As a fossil fuel, coal is a non-renewable energy and should not be seen as a long-term investment in energy policy. While funding may continue to promote clean coal research, it is clear the non-renewable energies require too many additional processes to be considered a sustainable fuel for the future.

Clean Coal and Its Potential 7 of 10 on the basis of 1240 Review.