Experimental clean coal method claims 99.5% capture of CO2


Like it or not, coal will be a major source of energy for decades to come. So, let’s make it as clean as possible. Researchers have develop a new method, no doubt more expensive than traditional coal burning but still, which captures 99.5% of CO2 emissions.

A commercially viable way to burn coal while capturing the CO2 emissions is moving closer to reality. Researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) recently reported the achievement of a new milestone on the path to commercial use, a successful 200-hour test on a sub-pilot scale version of the technology while using two of the most highly polluting forms of coal.

This does not sound like greenwash. Let’s hope it happens at grid scale.

Coal to replace oil as top energy source by 2017


China and India will be burning much more coal for energy by 2017, making coal the biggest source of energy by 2017. The US is burning less due to increased natural gas usage however it will be exporting coal to Europe. And of course natural gas extraction involves fracking which, as we all know, is toxic to the environment and water supplies.

CO2 emissions will increase and thus, so will the effects of climate change. It’s all really quite depressing. Governments and business make unctuous noises about wanting to combat global warming but what we get is more dirty power. The recent Doha climate change conference was a feeble joke. What’s is going to take to get the planet away from dirty energy?

Pacific Northwest: Sending coal to China?

Long coal train, South Dakota, 1946. Carol M Highsmith, American (Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

SSA Marine, which is 51% owned by Goldman Sachs, has applied for federal and state permits  to build facilities at Cherry Point to ship coal from the Rocky Mountains to China, thereby making the Pacific Northwest the largest coal exporting region in the country. (As many as half a dozen future sites have been proposed along the Oregon and Washington coast. If all of them were built and operated to planned capacity, those ports would ship 50% more coal than the entire country did in 2011.)

Most of the coal would come from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana; the coal would arrive on the coast either by train or river barges. What could possibly go wrong?

Physicians fret about an explosion of locomotive exhaust, while mayors grumble about the potential for long traffic-snarling trains. Washington state fears 1,200 new barge trips on the Columbia River could spark more accidents and marine-vessel groundings. Tribes worry that spilled coal could poison aquatic food webs.

But as the federal government begins its first lengthy review of plans to ship coal through Northwest ports, it’s not clear how — or if — the feds will weigh in on perhaps the most far-reaching issue: the potential effect new markets for coal could have on greenhouse-gas emissions.

There’s more information about the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point near Ferndale, Washington, here and here. SSA has provided some more details to its proposal which the Bellingham Herald explains here.

24 GW of dirty coal power may shut down

New regulations may force up to 67 coal plants generating 24 GW of power to shut down. This is a good thing, except, where will the replacement energy come from? No one seems to have given much thought to this.

For example, an AES New York subsidiary with 1 GW in coal plants has filed for bankruptcy citing falling energy prices and increased regulations. Yes, they might be weasels trying to avoid regulations, but the new regulations will unquestionably be expensive for existing dirty energy plants to comply with. Many will simply shut down.

24 GW of power can not be replaced quickly. Permitting and funding for grid-scale renewable power plants can easily take several years, and this is before construction starts.

So where will the lost power come from?