Analysis of Clean Coal Technology

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A Report on Clean Coal Technology in Today’s Society

As the world we live in today continues to become more focused on “going green” and doing more to protect the environment, clean coal technology is one of the key focal points to look at. In 2003, each person in the United States consumed, on average, 3.7 tons of coal (Ristinen, and Kraushaar 19). This number has obviously increased year by year, and today it looms as a massive number. Coal usage has some well-documented detriments to the environment. Atmospheric problems, sulfur dioxide and acid rain, and global warming issues all can be directly linked to the heavy usage of coal burning. We Americans use massive amounts of coal each year, so naturally finding more clean and efficient methods of doing it can prove to be beneficial to the environment and society as a whole. So what are some of the current technologies going into the “clean coal” movement? Some strategies that are currently being used include chemically washing minerals and impurities from the coal prior to burning, gasification and the innovative IGCC process, treating the flue gases with steam to remove sulfur dioxide, the Department of Energy’s new FutureGen project, and the dewatering of lower rank coals to improve calorific quality. With all of these improvements in technologies out there today, one might wonder: Why are we not just employing all these ideas to make our coal as clean as possible? Truth be told, there are numerous roadblocks which stand in the way. The economic viability, timeframe of delivery, and the potential for unknown social and environmental problems all become an issue when trying to launch a legitimate clean coal campaign. This paper will take a look into some of the issues surrounding normal coal usage today, the various clean coal technologies on the radar today, and some of the potential problems we face as we try to move the burning of coal forward in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way.

According to a study done by the World Resources Institute, the United States is currently far and away the leader in proven coal reserves in the world. We current hold a proven reserve of 121,961 million tonnes oil equivalent. The next largest figure in the world belongs to Russia, at a mere 68,699 (World Energy Supply). As we can see here, the United States always has focused their energy efforts into using coal, being the perpetual frontrunner in terms of proved reserves. The coal in the United States that is considered “minable” is 71% bituminous and subituminous, 28% lignite, and 1% anthracite (Ristinen, and Kraushaar 51). Unfortunately, anthracite is the cleanest burning of all the aforementioned coals, which is one of the reasons why coal usage today is so bad for the environment. Coal production and usage in the United States has boomed since the mid-1960’s, but not as much as it could have expanded. According to Ristinen and Kraushaar, “Some of the failure for coal production to increase even more rapidly in this time period is due to concerns about the environmental impact of surface mining, the effect of CO² emissions on the global climate, and health effects of sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions” (52). In short, coal production has been mitigated due to health and environmental concerns. Even with that said the United States is still the leader in proven reserves, with almost double that of second place Russia. With such a heavy amount of coal in use in the United States today, clean coal technologies have taken center stage. In the best case scenario, the United States will hopefully be able to successfully utilize multiple forms of this new technology in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner. Now we will take a look into the actual technologies that are being developed today, technologies that we can only hope one day become a part of our lifestyles as Americans.

One of the most popular advancements out there today in the world of clean...
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