Short Answers to Hard Questions About Clean Coal Technology

Jul 9, 2016

By Ian Urbina

Technology holds the promise of enabling coal power plants, which produce much of the world’s electricity, to run more cleanly, emitting far less of the pollution that causes climate change. But these projects have been difficult to make a reality because they are complicated and expensive. Here is a quick primer.

What is “clean coal”?
The term “clean coal” has been popularized by the coal industry, electric utilities and policy makers. It refers to the hopeful notion that technology will enable power plants to burn coal but release far less pollution. C.C.S., which stands for carbon capture and storage, or carbon capture and sequestration, is a type of clean coal technology that would prevent carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaust from entering the atmosphere from power plants that burn coal, natural gas and biomass, or other sources of carbon emissions like iron or steel factories and oil refineries. Since the early 2000s, there has been a wave of optimism that this technology could play a vital role in slowing climate change by cleaning up some of the biggest emitters of carbon pollution. Now there is significant skepticism that the technology can be scaled up affordably, reliably and soon enough to make a difference.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

13 comments on “Short Answers to Hard Questions About Clean Coal Technology

  • Now there is significant skepticism that the technology can be scaled up affordably, reliably and soon enough to make a difference.

    I think this was never more than a very minor niche situation technology, which will never compete economically with green alternatives that do not extract carbon from the ground or convert it into CO2.

    It has been hyped by the mining industry as a pretext for continuing to burn coal and deny the need for green technologies!
    “Clean coal” (C + O2 = CO2) is an oxymoron!
    The most cost effective way to keep coal “clean” is to leave it buried in the ground!



    Report abuse

  • So a pretty devastating prospect for CCS then.

    About time we moved on. Though CCS may have a place with other CO2 producing processes. Breweries, distilleries, cement works (not all cement can become Magnesium based) would benefit. Topical algae production or horticulture would be the rational choice though.



    Report abuse

  • Sorry for being so sarcastic, but I think this is pushing too much the envelope on relying on the blatant stupidity of the people! Since Renewables are showing its real shortcomings as a crafty promoted temporary fiasco now they try to sugarcoat the unacceptable? Why not going directly to Nuclear power? https://aris.iaea.org/default.html



    Report abuse

  • Wilhelm #5
    Jul 10, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Since Renewables are showing its real shortcomings as a crafty promoted temporary fiasco now they try to sugarcoat the unacceptable?

    I’m not sure where that spurious claim came from
    Some evidence would be helpful, given that renewables work very well in geographically suitable locations.
    ie. Norway’s electricity is 98% hydro – with plans to expand production and export electricity to England and Germany.
    There is enough tidal power to last about 2 million years and more than enough solar power in the world’s deserts, to more than supply the present world demand. (Even the Saudis are building large solar farms!),
    Iceland of course makes good use of geothermal power, while technological improvements reducing waste and recycling heat, reduce demand per unit system. For example there have been massive reductions in electrical usage by street-lighting as a result of LED lights.

    When operating, (about 70% of the time), onshore wind generates the cheapest electricity per KW of any system.

    Why not going directly to Nuclear power?

    I think nuclear is part of the mix, but building plants takes a very long time and we are in a hurry.
    Theoretically Thorium liquid salt generators look like the cleanest option, but due to weapons-focussed political stupidity, development has been neglected for decades, so may take some time to catch up.

    http://www.thoriumenergyworld.com/



    Report abuse

  • I’m speaking only of Wind and Solar when referred to Renewables: you are wrong in your appreciations, how can you deny the objective facts of physics that make them evident fiascoes? Renewable (wind&solar) technologies don’t work more than 20% a day and there’s no electricity storage for supplying a less than metropolitan grid power size. Every solar and wind power facility in reality requires a huge 70-80% baseload of energy backup to sustain continuous power on the grid. Stop all being sucked into believing the Renewable fiasco just takes a bit of critical thinking and scientific literacy for not to buy the demagoguery of corporation owned politicians and media… Oil tycoons, Natural Gas fracking and Coal Industry corporations are behind this enormous scam appeasing the populace concerns buying more time for their economical profit.

    For the rest I concur much particularly in your appreciation on MSRs.



    Report abuse

  • Wilhelm #7

    Analysis of wind and solar profiles is transformed by the sudden dropping in cost of HVDC transnational and international links due to GaN technology at the line terminations. The wind over a suitably large area is reliable. In high asset regions like the island of Ireland wind can be 60% before edging into instability. International sales are much more cost effective now as transmission losses fall. In northern and western Europe wind is so cost effective that in doubling transmission distance for the same loss the catchment area is quadrupled and even pushing beyond this to take a little extra hit in loss fully transcontinental and even intercontinental sales become possible. Solar is as reliable over large areas in Spain and Northern Africa as Wind is on the North Western edge of Europe. The latest sums look very good indeed.

    I have worked in the industry for a while designing test equipment for it. I follow it in detail.



    Report abuse

  • Wilhelm #7

    Stop all being sucked into believing the Renewable fiasco just takes a bit of critical thinking and scientific literacy for not to buy the demagoguery of corporation owned politicians and media… Oil tycoons, Natural Gas fracking and Coal Industry corporations are behind this enormous scam appeasing the populace concerns buying more time for their economical profit.

    A bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, much more is always better. Conspiracy theorists depend on just this small amount.



    Report abuse

  • Wilhelm #7
    Jul 10, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    I’m speaking only of Wind and Solar when referred to Renewables: you are wrong in your appreciations, how can you deny the objective facts of physics that make them evident fiascoes?

    As I said in my earlier comment these technologies are optimised in extensive specific geographical conditions.

    Renewable (wind&solar) technologies don’t work more than 20% a day

    Industry claims suggest A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time,

    there’s no electricity storage for supplying a less than metropolitan grid power size.

    Every solar and wind power facility in reality requires a huge 70-80% baseload of energy backup to sustain continuous power on the grid.

    While wind generation works at different times in different places it certainly needs to be part of a mix in an integrated system. Systems like on demand hydro-systems can be part of this.

    The appropriateness of solar, depends on the local climate.
    Many solar systems are very local in production and consumption.

    Stop all being sucked into believing the Renewable fiasco just takes a bit of critical thinking and scientific literacy for not to buy the demagoguery of corporation owned politicians and media… Oil tycoons, Natural Gas fracking and Coal Industry corporations are behind this enormous scam appeasing the populace concerns buying more time for their economical profit.

    They are, but the campaigns of climate change denial and false claims about renewables are their tools.

    If you look over this sites archives, you will find many posts debunking carbon industry propaganda and links to technical papers on renewablw projects.

    There is little merit in pointing out poor performances of renewable systems which are either outdated technology or which are situated in the wrong geographical locations for optimum production.



    Report abuse

  • Alan

    There is little merit in pointing out poor performances of renewable systems which are either outdated technology or which are situated in the wrong geographical locations for optimum production.

    Or the fact that the system isn’t all joined up optimally yet. Our smart grid is still to come. This is a work in progress. The addition of each new wind turbine in a new location brings increasing value to all the others.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.