Tagged: coal

Chris Hayes, Neil DeGrasse Tyson – on climate change

Hayes & Tyson on climate change
Click for the video

Just happened to catch the end of this, last night. A shortish video worth watching. And COSMOS will show the season finale Sunday night. Really worth watching.

Thanks, Mike

China’s capital to begin replacing some coal-fired plants

Auld Reekie

China will replace four coal-burning heating plants in the capital Beijing with natural gas fired ones by the end of next year as it steps up efforts to clean up pollution…

The report, citing the city’s Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, said the four plants and some 40 other related projects would cost around $8 billion and cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 10,000 metric tons. It did not detail the related projects.

The plan is the latest step by authorities to deal with a persistent smog crisis in China’s big cities that is fuelling public anger. The capital has been shrouded in thick hazardous smog for several days during the ongoing seven-day national holiday.

China has been under pressure to tackle air pollution to douse potential unrest as an increasingly affluent urban populace turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has besmirched much of China’s air, water and soil.

Last month the government announced plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts said implementing the targets would be a major challenge.

The new plants will replace four coal-fired ones that provide heating for homes in the city’s central urban area as well as generating electricity, Xinhua said.

Beijing is the Auld Reekie of the 21st Century. For those of you who don’t know the term, it described Edinburgh [and London] not only in the years before World War 2, but, especially afterwards during the efforts to ramp industrial production back up to speed in the UK.

Then, as now, though industrial use was a significant portion of the air pollution, everyone’s attachment to their wee coal fire heating the main rooms of home was a tough cultural obstacle – just as central to established urban life in Beijing. The solution has to be the same – replacing those coal fires with natural gas or electricity generated by means other than burning coal.

The cost of bringing large volumes of natural gas to locations in and around Beijing also lays the groundwork for local provision and access to that cleaner substitute for coal. Smart idea.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan joins the Green Revolution

Locally manufactured wind generator in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

Oil-rich Kazakhstan will spend 1 percent of annual output every year until 2050 to increase power generation from greener sources, a senior official said, cutting its dependence on coal far faster than some of the world’s big polluters.

The Central Asian country, the world’s ninth largest by area but populated by just 17 million people, holds about 3 percent of the global recoverable oil reserves. However, its fast, oil-propelled growth hinges on high oil prices.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former steelworker who has ruled for more than two decades, has signed off on a state program on developing sources of renewable energy.

“According to our estimates, total investments – state and private – needed to implement this program will amount annually to an average of $3.2 billion in the period until 2050, or roughly 1 percent of GDP,” Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Kapparov told a news briefing…

This is not such a high price for the clean air, for the health of our children and the preservation of ecological systems, as well as for our economy’s resilience to external shocks which assume more threatening proportions each year.”

Coal-fired power stations, which heavily pollute the atmosphere, currently account for around 80 percent of Kazakhstan’s electricity generation.

Kapparov said, provided domestic natural gas prices were high, Kazakhstan’s “energy basket” by 2030 would be made up of 11 percent generated by wind and the sun, 8 percent by nuclear power, 10 percent by hydro power, 21 percent by gas and 49 percent by coal…

The “green revolution” can add annually up to 3 percent of GDP to Kazakhstan’s current economic growth in the period until 2050, Kapparov said, and create up to 600,000 new jobs.

Looking forward is rarely part of the skill set of politicians. That seems to be a global character trait – with a few exceptions.

It’s always good news for the rest of the planet, as well, when a small, unique portion of the world’s economic machinery decides to include sensible environmental goals into their planning.

In the United States, we’d be improving the odds if we even considered planning.

China leading the way with processing trapped carbon from coal

After studying chemistry at Shanghai’s Fudan University, Jane Chuan and Wang Youqi pursued doctorates in the U.S. She got hers from what’s now the University of Buffalo in 1988, the year they married. Wang graduated in 1994 from the California Institute of Technology.

A few years later, they were cashing in stock options in Silicon Valley companies they’d co-founded, one of which created a luminescent chemical to store X-ray images. Their home in Atherton, California, had seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and an acre of land…

By 2000, Wang was convinced that the research methods he was patenting could help stave off the environmental nightmare he saw unfolding during return visits to his homeland. China, already reeling from pollution, was poised to more than double coal consumption during the decade. That would choke cities with smog and exacerbate global warming.

Chuan, 61, bespectacled and smiling in her white lab coat, remembers pounding the pavement to pitch U.S. investors on cleaning China’s coal. Only a handful of California’s Internet- obsessed venture capitalists bit, she says.

So, in 2003, the couple moved back to Shanghai, the city from which they had emigrated 18 years earlier. They crammed into a 1,100-square-foot apartment that was hot in the summer, cold in the winter and crowded with two teenage children home from boarding school on weekends.

By 2006, Wang had his breakthrough in sight. He’d found a way to unlock a chemical stored in the coal that was poisoning his country and to put it to an unlikely use: cleaning China’s air.

The catalyst he discovered speeds reactions that convert methanol extracted from coal into a substance called dimethyl carbonate. By adding dimethyl carbonate to diesel fuel, Wang now plans to cut 90 percent of black carbon soot from the tailpipe emissions of 1,800 Shanghai buses by year-end…

Yashentech’s emissions-busting effort is one way in which China is racing to solve its clean-energy riddle: How can a country that’s hooked on coal mitigate environmental damage from the dirtiest of fossil fuels..?

With 1.3 billion people, power-hungry industries and scant oil or natural gas, it has no immediate alternatives to coal for fueling its economy. China gets 70 percent of its energy from coal, three times the U.S. figure. It even converts coal into diesel fuel and ammonia that’s used for making fertilizer…

China can’t quit coal. But with efforts from entrepreneurs, mining enterprises and electricity giants, it’s ready to tackle its addiction, says Zhou Fengqi, senior adviser to the Energy Research Institute of the government’s National Development and Reform Commission.

“Now that people have meat and fish to eat every day, the environment has also become a big concern,” Zhou says. “China is not like a developed country. We can’t simply stop using coal. If we want to use it, we have to clean it up.”

RTFA. The is only an excerpt from the beginning of an extensive review of the multiplicity of tech used, experimented with, being developed in China to handle the severe environmental questions they need to answer and solve. Fortunately, the resolve is there as well as the political will.

The article covers everything from coal to spirulina, omega-3 fatty acids to carbonated drinks. What’s most important? “In China, we get lots of support from the people, politicians and moneymakers,” Chuan says.

Cutting emissions may be easier without the focus on coal

As Congress debates legislation to slow global warming by limiting emissions, engineers are tinkering with ways to capture and store carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas.

But coal-fired power plants, commonly identified as the nation’s biggest emissions villain, may not be the best focus. Rather, engineers and policymakers say, it may be easier and less costly to capture the carbon dioxide at oil refineries, chemical plants, cement factories and ethanol plants, which emit a far purer stream of it than a coal smokestack does…

Lending momentum to this thinking, a Texas company, Denbury Resources, is building a 320-mile pipeline for carbon dioxide that will run from Louisiana to Houston.

Initially the pipeline will take natural underground deposits of carbon dioxide in Mississippi to the aging oil fields of east Texas, where it can be used to force more oil to the surface.

But as the pipeline threads its way through more and more refineries and plants — the chemical heartland of the United States — manmade carbon dioxide captured at those sites could also be added and stored.

Sequestering a ton of carbon dioxide from a chemical plant would have the same effect on the Earth’s atmosphere as storing a ton from a coal plant, scientists and industry executives emphasize.

Sequestration is not a coal technology — it is a greenhouse gas abatement strategy,” said S. Julio Friedmann, leader of the carbon management program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory…

What oil drillers pay for carbon dioxide depends on the value of the oil it will help produce. When oil is at $70 a barrel, carbon dioxide goes for $10 or $11 a ton, said Tracy Evans, the chief executive of Denbury, the Texas company building the carbon dioxide pipeline.

Should the Congressional legislation mandate a cap-and-trade system, that modest price could be very important. “Wherever you can go to store a ton of carbon the most cheaply, you will go,” said Mr. Holmstead, the former E.P.A. administrator for air.

Not only applies reason to the questions of sequestration vs. source, it begins to make cap-and-trade sound sensible, viable.

Red Tape means Welsh coal users have to get it from Siberia

The local mine is a mere three miles away and is clearly visible from the offices of the Brecon Mountain Railway in Merthyr Tydfil.

But regulations about how it can be transported mean that coal for the railway’s newly converted steam train comes not from the south Wales valleys but from Siberia, 3,000 miles away.

Coal from the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr has to be moved by rail rather than road. As there is no rail link from the mine to the railway, coal for the converted engine comes from the wilds of Siberia via rail to the ports, then container ship to Hull, then by road to Merthyr…

The railway owner, Jayne Hills said it was even more galling because the local coal was perfect for use in a steam locomotive. It generates steam quickly and maintains its heat…

“Being from Merthyr, where everyone has a relative who was a coal miner, or knew somebody who was a miner, this seems just crazy,” she said.

The mine operator, Miller Argent, said it was not just the railway that had to source coal from faraway locations despite there being a mine close by. Local coal merchants who supply homes, pubs, schools and hospitals were also having to look elsewhere for their supply because the mine’s planning permission stipulated it could only move coal by rail.

See. It’s not the Republicans – alone – who invented Red Tape.

Sometimes, I think that nations beginning to fail at imperialism have to do something with excess bureaucrats; so, they put them to work “regulating” the lives of ordinary citizens.

First test of CO₂ capture at a coal-fired power plant about to start

CO₂ capture facility sprawls alongside cooling tower at Mountaineer plant

Poking out of the ground near the smokestacks of the Mountaineer power plant here are two wells that look much like those that draw natural gas to the surface. But these are about to do something new: inject a power plant’s carbon dioxide into the earth.

A behemoth built in 1980, long before global warming stirred broad concern, Mountaineer is poised to become the world’s first coal-fired power plant to capture and bury some of the carbon dioxide it churns out. The hope is that the gas will stay deep underground for millennia rather than entering the atmosphere as a heat-trapping pollutant.

The experiment, which the company says could begin in the next few days, is riveting the world’s coal-fired electricity sector, which is under growing pressure to develop technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. Visitors from as far as China and India, which are struggling with their own coal-related pollution, have been trooping through the plant.

The United States still depends on coal-fired plants, many of them built decades ago, to meet half of its electricity needs. Some industry experts argue that retrofitting them could prove far more feasible than building brand new, cleaner ones.

Yet the economic viability of the Mountaineer plant’s new technology, known as carbon capture and sequestration, remains uncertain…

And as with any new technology, even the engineers are unsure how well it will work: will all of the carbon dioxide stay put?

Should be interesting as all get-out. Of course, regardless of results, diehard coal investors will claim it worked. The Earth-religion segment of environmentalist activists will claim it didn’t.

I’m waiting for solid data, analysis that is peer-reviewed – preferably by universities without subsidies from coal companies.

Coal Countries betting tech can clean up energy production

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission


In the high-stakes game of climate change, the United States and other countries are betting on the idea that technology can make dirty coal cleaner.

For years if not decades, U.S. efforts to develop big coal-fired power plants that push CO2 emissions into the ground instead of spewing them into the atmosphere have stalled. The situation has gotten so bad that green-tech experts refer to this period of technological development as the “valley of death” for carbon capture and storage technology, or CCS…

“If we’re going to be able to add carbon capture and storage to our toolbox of ways to address climate change, the time to demonstrate it is right now — or yesterday, maybe,” said Sarah Forbes, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute. “CO2 emissions are continuing to rise, and we’re seeing impacts of climate change…”

And President Obama last month announced a $1 billion revamp of the country’s flagship CCS research project, a near-zero-emissions coal-fired power plant in Illinois called FutureGen. It’s urgent that both efforts succeed, Forbes said…

About half of U.S. power comes from coal, and the process of burning coal for electricity accounts for about 80 percent of the country’s CO2 emissions from electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar — which, together, account for less than 2 percent of U.S. electricity production — won’t be able to ramp up fast enough to replace coal, said Scott Anderson, a senior policy adviser at the Environmental Defense Fund.

“We’re not champions of coal at EDF, but we’re realists,” he said. “Although we see room for a huge expansion of renewable energy and efficiency, in the near term, we don’t think that coal is going away. … We still have a huge existing base of coal plants that will be around, at a minimum, for a number of decades.”

In the United States, many are pinning hopes on FutureGen…The project took a blow in late June, however, when two of its private-sector backers, American Electric Power Co. and Southern Co., withdrew. Because of delays and cost overruns, the project has earned the nickname “NeverGen.”

Meanwhile, other nations are moving ahead. In China, the similarly named GreenGen plant is expected to be completed before FutureGen. Australia has a project called ZeroGen, and several European countries are working on similar technologies.

Some have described the situation as an arms race. The country first to prove that CCS works may be able to export the technology elsewhere.

Obama probably has the best quote on the question: “If we managed to put a man on the moon in 10 years I think we can do the same with coal-based production of electricity.” Or something like that.

Point being – as an ecology activist for decades I think it would be foolish to pass on the energy potential of our great coal deposits because some don’t like the idea of using it – at all. That’s not science. It’s not even ideology. It’s religion.

Canada aims to end traditional coal power – they say!

The Canadian government plans new regulations that will effectively phase out traditional coal-fired power stations, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said in an interview just published.

He told the Globe and Mail newspaper that new coal plants would have to include technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions and inject them underground for permanent storage.

Ottawa also plans to impose absolute emission caps on utilities’ existing coal-fired power plants and establish a market-based system to allow them to buy credits to meet those targets, he said.

“The approach that we’ve been working toward involves a cap-and-trade system relating to thermal coal, and the requirement of phasing out those facilities as they reach the end of their useful, fully amortized life,” Prentice said.

“The concept is that, as these facilities are fully amortized and their useful life fully expended, they would not be replaced with coal,” he added, saying the regulations would be unveiled later this year.

The Globe said coal-fired electricity represents roughly 18 per cent of Canada’s current emissions, and eight of the 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters in the country are coal-fired power plants.

I can’t help reacting to the cap-and-trade babble as something approaching transmogrification – and not much closer to the real world. Add to that some agitprop telling me a Conservative government is taking the side of science over wealthy shareholders and you’ll forgive me while I search for my Wellies.

Of course, they could just be scheduling all these “positive” changes to be stepped into place just after succeeding elections.

25 years after – Hatfield has the last laugh on Margaret Thatcher

The morning shift comes up into the daylight… Mick Barnes and his mates, once again, are doing what they do best.

The miners are back. The tough, proud men of coal. A quarter of a century after the bitter strike that nearly finished it off, their industry is ready to stage a remarkable revival.

“None of us would ever have predicted this,” says Mick, 47, after he’s scrubbed away the dust and grime from eight hours underground.

Did the miners lose the strike? Yes, we did, to be honest. We took on Margaret Thatcher and the might of the Tory Government, and we lost. But look what’s happening now. In the end, we’re the ones having the last laugh, Maggie.”

Under plans announced by the Government this month, an updated Hatfield Main will provide the fuel for a new breed of carbon-friendly power stations – linked directly to one that will be built next door by 2014, at a cost of £1 billion.

Jobs should be assured for decades. The seam they are mining now could last for at least 50 years. Suddenly, Mick and the rest can glimpse the flicker of a bright future.

A delightful tale. A piece of writing [forgive me] I wouldn’t have expected inside the Mirror. And I like the Mirror.

RTFA. Reflect upon people ready and willing to re-examine what life and industry may now have to offer. They never gave up.