Is It Possible To Make Coal Energy Cleaner?
Coal isn’t the cleanest energy source and we still rely on it for various purposes. Global coal reserves are so huge that the coal market has been plagued by sharp decreases in coal prices. Because coal is generally dirtier compared to other fossil energy sources, we need to take steps to make the burning process cleaner. A common way to do this is by using a system to capture carbon dioxide and other unwanted gasses. These gasses can be captured and diverted into biomass. Carbon capture using geo-sequestration has been supported by various governments. Other than carbon dioxide, the burning of the coal also produce various oxides of nitrogen and sulphur compounds. We also need to deal with particulates and traces of heavy metal. There should also be a better management in coal mine. We should consider various environmental hazards, such as the spontaneous combustions of mining waste and acid mine drainage. The coal burning process can be made cleaner by making the process more efficient. It means that to generate a specific amount of energy, we will need less amount of coal.
The efficiency of the coal burning process has increased to 36 percent from 25 percent in many coal burning facilities. Some newer coal-fired power plants are able to achieve 40 percent efficiency and it means that they need to burn less coal to reach their rated power output. There are now researches on achieving 45 percent efficiency. When power plants are more efficient, the will have lower carbon dioxide emissions and less solid wastes for each unit of electricity generated. The steel industry requires a large quantity of coal and they release more carbon dioxide than the steel production. It is important to reduce the release of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and ash particulates to reduce the incidences of smog and acid rain. Coal burning facilities may also use mercury capture systems to prevent the excessive release of the metal to the open environment. Coal mines are also notorious for acid mine drainages. Coal mine waste often contain sulphuric acid that could pollute streams and rivers, damaging the overall environment. Acid mine drainage could also be caused by mine wastes that combust spontaneously.
Regardless of the facility, it is important that there are continuous improvements to control the emission of toxic and hazardous materials. There should be constant monitoring on whether the carbon capture mechanism is able to reduce the carbon dioxide emission significantly. The social and political stances should also be favourable that they will support the continuing development and research in carbon cleaning technology. It is important to continuously measure occupational and societal costs of coal mining and usages. The society has been influenced by centuries of coal burning and this activity contributes to the constant increase of green house gasses and the incidence of global warming, which in turn results in climate changes. Coal is affordable fuel and it is also abundant. It’s called as democratic fuel, but its usage will need to be controlled better.