Coal: Source of Energy-Generation
- Coal was used as source of energy in the nineteenth century. It is a hard substance in black or brown color and 90% of it is composed of carbon. It is the result of the conversion of organic compounds and dead plants that were deposited millions of years ago. These compounds piled at the bottoms of swamps in which air hardly existed. Thus, organic compounds did not decompose because oxygen was available in small amounts.
- Coal is extracted from mines that are dug deep into the ground. Once extracted, it lifted into the surface of the earth. Sometimes, this process is done in open mines by removing dirt and rocks that cover coal mines. Although safety and precaution measure have improved, disasters still take place every now and then. Sometimes, miners, being locked in mines, die because it is not possible to get them out of these deep underground locations.
- Coal is available in many parts of the world. Coal exists in large amounts, a fact which coal experts have estimated that coal reserves could suffice the world for at least 400 years to come. Currently most coal uses are focused in the generation of electricity ( from power generation plants) and as a raw material for the production of steel (that is, as an additive to iron).
Coal As Eco Friendly Compound?
It seems that the world is soon going to reach a new era where clean energy technologies would be used. One is the use of coal. It is also important to realize that the use of coal to generate electric power should not be considered as a nightmare to the environment. Thus, piles and large quantities of coal which are distinguished by their black color would shape the future of energy production in the whole world, as predicted by the US Energy Corporation.
- It is expected that in 2030 the world's consumption of fossil fuel— as the main source of greenhouse gases around the Earth— would account for about 10.6 billion tons per year, a figure which is twice the amount of burned fossil fuels in the 2003.
Yet, Mr. Mike Maid, former director of The Technological Development for Energy Management of the United States of America stressed that coal has become the most dominating source for of electricity generation and should not be seen as a cause for harming the environment in the future. Currently, Mr. Mike is the senior CEO for the Future Energy Project. This giant Project is jointly funded by the Technological Development for Energy Management and another 11 US pioneering companies specialized in electric power production. The total budget of the Project is estimated at an amount of $ US 1 billion to be used in the construction of the first electric power generation plant by using clean coal technologies in the world. In such a power station, gas emission is supposed to reach zero rate. In addition, it is anticipated that this giant plant, with a generation capacity of 275 MW, would start operating as a model example for a new type of electricity generation plants run by clean coal technology without polluting the air.
- Thus, it is now possible to use the carbon in coal to extract oxygen from water in order to produce clean hydrogen. The Future Energy Project intends to separate hydrogen atoms by slowly heating underground coal within a high state of pressure and in the presence of pure oxygen. This process is called gasification. Following that, the turbine of the resultant hydrogen is used to produce electricity.
With respect to resulting emissions, the Project would inject the carbon dioxide resulting from the burning of coal to the underground while other pollutants would be converted into solid materials and buried underground. The Project uses gasification as a launching point for burning hydrogen alone out of a gas mixture. Also carbon monoxide is to bond with steam to produce additional quantity of hydrogen. Carbon dioxide would be injected into a depth ranging between 2700 and 16, 000 feet underground in saltwater tanks. The US Project aims at significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
This process would be an example for other electric power production projects to follow suit. The US Government is to set limits and regulations governing the emissions of carbon dioxide to be adopted and adhered to by electric power production projects in the United States. These limits and regulations should be applied in other regions of the world, especially in Canada and Europe. Friedman stated that experts have agreed upon the notion of "Locking up carbon" cannot be a solution for long. But it could be a drive for separating carbon, a process that could be carried out over a period a long period ranging between 50 to 100 years. Emphasizing this notion, he stresses "Actually, we must implement this idea so that we could have another option besides the burning of coal in the future."