Seven reasons why “Clean” Coal is dirty, dangerous and wicked, but not funny in the slightest.
1. Coalmines are Toxic
“White House acts to reduce environmental damage from mountaintop coal mining in 6 states : Dina Cappiello : June 11th, 2009 : Plan targets fallout from mountaintop mining…Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers will set clear standards, ensuring that communities in coal-mining regions have clean streams and drinking water. Mining waste dumped into waterways can diminish water quality for fish and other aquatic organisms, and taint sources of drinking water…”
“Coal mines and rivers: a toxic mix : 29th of Apr, 2009 : From Emerald in Queensland, to the Liverpool Plains of New South Wales, coal mines are having a huge impact on the quantity and quality of our river systems. An independent study of the impact of coal mines on Queensland’s Fitzroy River found that the discharge quality limits and operating conditions for mines in the Bowen Basin do not adequately protect the downstream values of the environment, impacting ecosystems and town drinking water supplies…The impetus for this study resulted from a flood event in central Queensland in January and February 2008…The Queensland EPA authorised the mine to discharge flood waters entrapped in this mine to the Nogoa River, which ultimately flows into the Fitzroy River. In August, water quality results for Bedford Weir downstream of Ensham Coal Mine, indicated that salinity was increasing in the waterways downstream of the Ensham discharge, and that drinking water supplies were being adversely affected…”
2. Thermal Coal Power Plants are Toxic
“Estimate Of Coal Sludge Spill Size Doubled : KRISTIN M. HALL | December 27, 2008 : NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Authorities need to more strongly warn residents that muck left from a major coal-ash spill in eastern Tennessee could pose health risks, a southern environmental group said Saturday. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said Friday that the mixture of coal fly ash and water coating a neighborhood near the Kingston Fossil Plant didn’t pose an immediate risk to residents unless they ingested it…”
“Posted 8/24/2004 : Mercury in many lakes, rivers ; By Elizabeth Weise and Traci Watson, USA TODAY : One third of the nation’s lake waters and one-quarter of its riverways are contaminated with mercury and other pollutants that could cause health problems for children and pregnant women who eat too much fish, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday…Mercury is emitted primarily by incinerators and power plants that burn coal. The EPA plans to publish rules restricting mercury from power plants by mid-2005, although environmentalists say the preliminary draft of those rules does not go far enough…”
“Beryllium pollution from slag and ashes from thermal power stations : Journal Water, Air, & Soil Pollution : Publisher Springer Netherlands : Issue : Volume 34, Number 4 / August, 1987 : Pages 363-367 : Beryllium pollution from slag and ashes from thermal power stations : Jana Kubizncaronáková : Institute of Landscape Ecology, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, 37005 Ccaroneské Budecaronjovice, Czechoslovakia : Received: 1 September 1986 Revised: 15 January 1987 : Abstract Beryllium enters the environment principally from coal combustion. Be contents in the ashes from a Czechoslovak power plant were determined…It was discovered that the acidic and the alkali aqueous extracts of these ashes contain various concentrations of Be (1 to 17% of total concentration). Wastewater has shown 3.15 and 3.4 mgrg Be L–1. Thus, secondary long-term Be pollution emerges from the slag and ash dumps…”
3. Carbon Capture and Storage will increase Heat Pollution
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a group of technology proposals to capture Carbon Dioxide emissions from burning coal in power plants, and then store safely underground or at the bottom of the sea. Each of the technologies proposed risks burning more Coal fuel in order to do the Carbon Capture and the Carbon Storage. Burning more Coal will create more heat which will be released into the local environment. Heat from thermal power plants is a form of pollution.
“Environmental Effects : The primary effects of thermal pollution are direct thermal shock, changes in dissolved oxygen, and the redistribution of organisms in the local community. Because water can absorb thermal energy with only small changes in temperature, most aquatic organisms have developed enzyme systems that operate in only narrow ranges of temperature. These stenothermic organisms can be killed by sudden temperature changes that are beyond the tolerance limits of their metabolic systems. The cooling water discharges of power plants are designed to minimize heat effects on local fish communities. However, periodic heat treatments used to keep the cooling system clear of fouling organisms that clog the intake pipes can cause fish mortality. A heat treatment reverses the flow and increases the temperature of the discharge to kill the mussels and other fouling organisms in the intake pipes…”
“Heat and Thermal Pollution : by Rezwan on Jul 22, 2006 : What is heat pollution, what causes it and what are the dangers? How does Focus Fusion change the equation? As noted in Lenntech.com: “In most manufacturing processes a lot of heat originates that must be released into the environment, because it is waste heat. The cheapest way to do this is to withdraw nearby surface water, pass it through the plant, and return the heated water to the body of surface water. The heat that is released in the water has negative effects on all life in the receiving surface water. This is the kind of pollution that is commonly known as heat pollution or thermal pollution.” The warmer water decreases the solubility of oxygen in the water and it also causes water organisms to breathe faster. Many water organisms will then die from oxygen shortages, or they become more susceptible to diseases…”
4. Carbon Capture and Storage will reduce Efficiency
Extra work means extra Energy used : Carbon Capture and Storage will require extra Energy to be used to separate the Carbon Dioxide from the Coal burning or gasification used in the processing, and extra Energy to pump the Carbon Dioxide to its Storage.
Coal burning is inefficient enough already :-
“There Oughta Be a Law : By Bill Hewitt : Tuesday, August 11 : You will notice in this diagram from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) depicting the total electricity flow in the US for 2008 that “conversion losses” account for 63% of the energy generated. Got that?! Nearly two thirds of the energy used to make electricity, 51% of that from coal, 21% from nuclear, and 17% from natural gas, is lost as heat. (Another 3% or so is lost in transmission and distribution.) What do coal, nuclear and gas have in common? They are all deployed in central power plants. You know those great honking monolithic hyperbolic cement monstrosities that dot the landscape all over the world blowing steam?…”
5. Carbon Capture and Storage is not a reality yet
The methods for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves elements that we know are doable, and some CCS is being done already, but a general use of the methods still needs to be proven in a variety of cases, at the large scale. One of the problems is that CCS of all kinds could turn out to be very expensive, deterring its development. We shouldn’t build new coal-fired electrical power generation plants if we don’t know if we can get CCS to work. Also, there is talk of only capturing a small portion of Carbon Dioxide from existing Coal plants fitted with CCS equipment. All of this doubt makes it a bad decision.
6. Coal Power uses increasingly scarce Water supplies
In some parts of the world, freshwater is the water used to cool Coal-fired power plants. And in those same countries, freshwater is stressed, by drought, and increasing take from supplies from agriculture and urban use. In some places it’s so bad that the aquifers are draining – that “fossil” water that is stored underground in rock formations that came from rain from centuries ago. If Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is chosen as the way to stop Carbon Dioxide emissions to air, more Coal fuel will need to be burned to do the CCS bit, and so more water will be needed. Not all of that water will get back to the groundwater systems, as it will be evaporated away as steam.
“Clean-coal technologies may imperil water supply : Peter Ker and Adam Morton : August 7, 2009 : CONTROVERSIAL “clean coal” technologies could dramatically increase the amount of water used to produce electricity in Australia. Amid dire water shortages across southern Australia and plans for significant cuts in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, a report by the National Water Commission has warned that water consumption would soar further if carbon capture and storage methods were built into coal-fired power stations. “Coal-fired power plants incorporating carbon capture and storage (CCS) could be one-quarter to one-third more water intensive,” the report said. “It is unlikely that past arrangements for supplying water to generators will be appropriate for the future in all circumstances.” Power stations consume large amounts of fresh water, with the equivalent of more than a quarter of Melbourne’s annual water consumption used to operate the five Latrobe Valley power stations. Environment Victoria director Mark Wakeham said the coal industry’s water consumption remained an “elephant in the room” for those working towards energy reform. But Peter Cook from the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Technologies said it was unlikely that future coal-fired power stations would continue to use water in a similar way to the existing coal generators. The generators would be replaced once carbon capture and storage was fully operational. Source: The Age”
“Environment Pollution : Will not 2 thermal plants, oil refinery add to woes of Bathinda? Sarbjit Dhaliwal : Tribune News Service : Jalandhar, August 8 : Will Bathinda region, which has two thermal plants and an oil refinery that will come up in a few years, have an environmental catastrophe? This question assumes significance as Bathinda region, having two coal-based thermal plants, has been facing threat to environment from the burning of coal and use of pesticides to protect crops. Work on coal-based 1980 MW thermal plant at Vanawala village, 45 km from Bathinda, has started. Another coal-based thermal plant of 2,640 MW has been proposed at Gidderbaha, 50 km from Bathinda. The case for coal linkage of Gidderbaha thermal plant is with the Union government. One coal-based 400 MW thermal plant has been generating power in Bathinda city since the 1970s. Another coal-based thermal plant of 920 MW is at Lehra Mohabbat, 25 km from Bathinda. Besides it, an oil refinery is coming up at Phulo Khari village, 30 km from Bathinda. There is also a fertiliser plant in the city. The thermal plants and the oil refinery projects cause damage to the environment and are known to harm health. So many projects in a radius of a few miles of Bathinda is a matter of concern and needs pondering. With the setting up of two thermal plants, the daily consumption of coal in all four thermal plants in Bathinda region will touch 85,000 tonne mark. Also there will be many cooling towers in these thermal plants and every cooling tower will release 110 tonnes of steam in the air. There can be a sort of acid rain owing to this factor because sulphur-dioxide plus water turn into sulphuric acid and oxide of nitrogen with water turn into nitric acid. As running water will not be available to these plants, cooling towers will have to be built up for using water in the plant…”
7. A projected Peak in Coal production by 2019
Some scientists and engineers are now saying that there could be a Peak in global Coal production. Some say by 2019. If we choose Coal as our feedstock, we risk having to build new power plants again after that if Coal supplies are stressed or become too expensive as everybody is competing for the same Coal fuel.
“Richard Heinberg’s “Blackout – Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis” : Posted by Heading Out on August 12, 2009 : When Richard Heinberg’s new book was about to be published, the editors at The Oil Drum were offered a review copy, and I was offered the chance to provide that review. Yet in a way providing that review gives me a bit of a puzzle, because the underlying premise on which the book is based is that, as David Rutledge has propounded, the world will run out of realistic coal reserves much faster than most folk anticipate. It is a point of view that I don’t completely accept, and I have posted on my disagreements with Dr. Rutledge over some of his assumptions and conclusions in the past. So I could fill this review with another regurgitation of my points of disagreement, but were I to do so I don’t think it would be a fair review…”
“Hubbert’s Peak, The Coal Question, and Climate Change : by Professor David Rutledge : Division of Engineering and Applied Science : California Institute of Technology : An accurate estimate of the ultimate production of oil, gas, and coal would be helpful for the ongoing policy discussion on alternatives to fossil fuels and climate change. By ultimate production, we mean total production, past and future. It takes a long time to develop energy infrastructure, and this means it matters whether we have burned 20% of our oil, gas, and coal, or 40%. In modeling climate change, the carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the most important factor. The time frame for the climate response is much longer than the time frame for burning fossil fuels, and this means that the total amount burned is more important than the burn rate. Oil, gas, and coal ultimates are traditionally estimated by government geological surveys from measurements of oil and gas reservoirs and coal seams, together with an allowance for future discoveries of oil and gas. We will see that where these estimates can be tested, they tend to be too high, and that more accurate estimates can be made by curve fits to the production history. : Power-Point Slides (4MB, updated June 2009) : Excel Workbook (11MB, updated June 2009) : Video from the Watson Lecture at Caltech, October 2007 (1 hour) : Abstract for invited presentation at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, December 2008”
Some Energy companies are claiming that, even without Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), new “supercritical” Coal power plants will be more clean-burning than older plants. Unfortunately, some of the claims of “super efficiency” could mislead you :-
“‘Cleaner Coal’: How China, India and the U.S. Will Hoodwink the Greens : Tuesday, May 12, 2009 : By Keith Johnson : If clean coal is still out of reach, will cleaner coal do the trick? Put another way, does Kansas offer a glimpse of America’s energy future? The newest generation of coal-fired power plants-which pulverize the coal into a powder before burning it-is a lot more efficient than older coal plants. Countries such as China that are building a lot of new coal plants are rolling out the “supercritical” coal technology-the same as what’s planned for the controversial Holcomb coal plant in Kansas. Make no mistake-cleaner is not clean. But clean coal-taken to mean coal plants that capture and store carbon emissions-is still embryonic. Only a handful of demonstration projects exist in the U.S., Europe, China, and Australia; there are no commercial plants in operation, and the financial and logistical hurdles to wide-scale carbon capture and storage are daunting. Meanwhile, cleaner coal technology is ready to roll. Siemens AG has built four big ultra-supercritical coal plants in China. Other companies offer gear for supercritical plants, such as General Electric. Since coal isn’t going anywhere-in the U.S. or in China-are cleaner plants the answer? The efficiency gains from supercritical plants seem modest-from about 39% or so for a good, older coal plant to as high 46% for a new supercritical plant. But that improvement translates into a 14% to 21% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions. The next generation-so-called ultra-supercritical plants-offer potentially even bigger benefits, but only a handful have been built, and none in the U.S. Of course, the real question is: Are modest improvements in coal plants enough to make a difference to greenhouse-gas emissions when so many plants are being built? China alone plans to have as much coal power in 2020 as the entire U.S. electricity system today.”
What the EPA say about Coal Power :-
James Hansen says we shall look stupid in the UK if we dig Coal, as it will make a mockery of our Climate Change Act and our purported Climate Change Ambition :-
“Opencast coalmine surge ‘weakens UK’s authority at climate change talks’ : Britain will be a joke at Copenhagen, warns Nasa scientist James Hansen, as government authorises more mines : Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent : guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 August 2009 : Coal production in Britain has increased sharply after a surge in new opencast coal mines, undermining the government’s claim to be a world leader on combating climate change. Dozens of opencast coal mines have been authorised by ministers and local councils across the UK, reversing a decade-long decline in coal production in Britain and often against intense local opposition. As a result, mining companies are now sitting on 71m tonnes of coal in licensed opencast mines, compared with 55m tonnes in 2007. And over the next few months, the industry is likely to win permission to mine another 15m tonnes from across the UK. The rise prompted condemnation from leading Nasa climate scientist Prof James Hansen. He said boosting coal production would undermine the UK’s position on climate change. “[The] UK will be a joke. It is moral turpitude, depravity, to build more coal-fired power plants or open coal mines, knowing what we know now,” he said. “It was one thing to dig coal when we didn’t know the consequences, but quite another thing today.” “The UK would not be in a position to ask anybody else to do anything,” he added…”
Just how stupid is Carbon Capture ?
““Carbon Capture and Burial – a Stupid Answer to a Silly Question.” : A statement by Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition. : 7th May 2009 : The Carbon Sense Coalition today called on the Australian Federal Parliament to stop playing Global Warming politics and focus instead on the irresponsible damage being contemplated by the Cap-N-Tax promises. In testimony this week to the New Zealand Parliamentary Enquiry into the ETS, the Chairman of Carbon Sense, Mr Viv Forbes, said that it was impossible to achieve the gigantic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions suggested by various western governments without a crash program of Carbon Capture and Burial (CCB). He expanded on those comments today: “There is no evidence that CCB would provide any climate or environmental benefits whatsoever – just a huge misuse of investment capital and a massive increase in the cost of living for any society silly enough to tread this path.””
And we haven’t even started talking about the extra costs involved in Carbon Capture and Storage…