Coal

Coal is ―mineral of fossilized carbon‖ known since the 13th century in China. It is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure.

Coal is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Throughout history, coal has been a useful resource. It is primarily burned for the production of electricity and / or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes, such as refining metals. A fossil fuel, coal forms when dead plant matter is converted into peat, which in turn is converted into lignite, then sub-bituminous coal, then bituminous coal, and lastly anthracite. This involves biological and geological processes that take place over a long period.

Coal is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide, as well as one of the largest worldwide anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide releases. In 1999 world gross carbon dioxide emissions from coal usage were 8,666 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Coal-fired electric power generation emits around 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour generated, which is almost double
1

the carbon dioxide released by a natural gas-fired electric plant per megawatt-hour generated. Because of this higher carbon efficiency of natural gas generation, as the fuel mix in the United States has changed to reduce coal and increase natural gas generation, carbon dioxide emissions have unexpectedly fallen. Those measured in the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest of any recorded for the first quarter of any year since 1992.

Coal is extracted from the ground by coal mining, either underground by shaft mining, or at ground level by open pit mining extraction.

The top hard and brown coal producers in 2010 (and 2009) were (in millions of tons):  China 3,162 (2,971);  United States 997 (985);  India 571 (571);  Australia 420 (399);  Indonesia 336 (301);  Russia 324 (297);  South Africa 255 (247);  Poland 134 (135);  Kazakhstan 111 (101); and  Colombia 74 (73).

2

Coal Gasification
The heart of a coal-fired power plant is a boiler, in which coal is burned by combustion to turn water into steam. The following equation shows what burning coal looks like chemically: C + O2 --> CO2. Coal isn't made of pure carbon, but of carbon bound to many other elements. Still, coal's carbon content is high, and it's the carbon that combines with oxygen in combustion to produce carbon dioxide, the major culprit in global warming. Other byproducts of coal combustion include sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury and naturally occurring radioactive materials. The heart of a power plant that incorporates gasification isn't a boiler, but a gasifier, a cylindrical pressure vessel about 40 feet (12 meters) high by 13 feet (4 meters) across. Feedstocks enter the gasifier at the top, while steam and oxygen enter from below. Any kind of carbon-containing material can be a feedstock, but coal gasification, of course, requires coal. A typical gasification plant could use 16,000 tons (14,515 metric tons) of lignite, a brownish type of coal, daily. A gasifier operates at higher temperatures and pressures than a coal boiler -- about 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit (1,427 degrees Celsius) and 1,000 pounds per square inch (6,895 kilopascals), respectively. This causes the coal to undergo different chemical reactions. First, partial oxidation of the coal's carbon releases heat that helps feed the gasification reactions. The first of these is pyrolysis, which occurs as coal's volatile matter degrades into several gases, leaving behind char, a charcoal-like substance. Then, reduction reactions transform the remaining carbon in the char to a gaseous mixture known as syngas.

3

Carbon monoxide and hydrogen are the two primary components of syngas. During a process known as gas cleanup, the raw syngas runs through a cooling chamber that can be used to separate the various components. Cleaning can remove harmful impurities, including sulfur, mercury and unconverted carbon. Even carbon dioxide can be pulled out of the gas and either stored underground or used in ammonia or methanol production. That leaves pure hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be combusted cleanly in gas turbines to produce electricity. Or, some power plants convert the syngas to natural gas by passing the cleaned gas over a nickel catalyst, causing carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide to react with free hydrogen to form methane. This "substitute natural gas" behaves like regular natural gas and can be used to generate electricity or heat homes and businesses. *** In the United States, ‗Clean Coal‘ is any technology that may mitigate emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses that arise from the burning of coal for electrical power. Typically, the term clean coal is used by coal companies in reference to carbon capture and storage, which pumps and stores CO2 emissions underground, and to plants using an Integrated gasification combined cycle, which gasifies coal to reduce CO2 emissions. Historically, the term has been used to refer to technologies for reducing emissions of ash, sulfur, and heavy metals from coal combustion.

4

Carbon capture and storage technologies are being developed primarily in response to regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency—most notably the Clean Air Act—and in anticipation of legislation that seeks to mitigate climate change. Currently, the electricity sector of the United States is responsible for about 41% of the nation's CO2 emissions, and half of the sector's production comes from coal-fired power plants. CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE (CCS) TECHNOLOGIES The United States Department of Energy works with private industry to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Several methods are available under this technology including  pre-capture,  oxy-fuel combustion, and

 post-capture CCS. Perhaps the most popular example of a coal-based plant using (oxyfuel) carbon-capture technology is Vattenfall‘s Schwarze Pumpe plant in Germany. However, it has not yet been demonstrated that carbon stored underground will be able to stay there indefinitely. Another technology under development is Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle or IGCC. Another problem is that for every ton of coal that is burned, 2.93 tons of carbon dioxide is created, meaning that for every train bringing coal to a CCS coal plant, three trains would be needed to remove the CO2.

5

A more recent technology being co-developed by Babcock –Thermo Energy is the Zero Emission Boiler System (ZEBS). This system features near 100% carbon-capture and according to company information virtually no air-emissions. The UK government's Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is working towards a clean energy future and supports clean coal projects across the country. In August 2010, UK-based Company B9 Coal announced a clean coal project with 90% carbon capture. This project gasifies coal underground and processes it to create pure streams of hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen is then used as an emissions-free fuel to run an alkaline fuel cell whilst the carbon dioxide is captured. This UK project could provide a world-leading template for clean coal with CCS globally.

6

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful