The Importance of Clean Coal Technology
Coal is one of the worst environmental pollutants. When coal is burned, it directly contributes to acid rain creation, water pollution and ultimately global warming.
Coal, once considered an evil fossil fuel, actually powers nearly half of all electricity generated in the U.S. Inexpensive and abundant, the government is using clean coal technology to further reduce the harmful effects of environmental emissions.
Coal is defined as a fossil fuel that contains hydrocarbons and carbons. These ingredients go into several common household products, including fertilizers, plastics and tar. As a derivative, coal contains a solid carbon known as coke. Coke then melts iron ore, reducing coal into steel. In the U.S., nearly 92-percent of coal supplies go directly into electric power production. Many power plants use coal, burning it to generate steam, which then fuels turbines that create electricity.
The coal burning process involves carbon dioxide release and flue gas, which is commonly seen escaping from smoke stacks. There are several different types of clean coal methods and technologies.
- Coal Washing – This involves removing all unwanted minerals and impurities from the coal. The coal is crushed and mixed with a liquid, which allows impurities to settle and separate for easy removal.
- Wet Scrubbers – This helps minimize harmful environmental emissions, such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulates. These wet scrubbers are designed to remove sulfur dioxide, which helps decrease the occurrence of acid rain.
- Low-NOx Burners – Known as Nitrogen Oxide burners, these help reduce nitrogen oxide output levels. This is accomplished by restricting oxygen during the combustion process.
- Electrostatic Precipitators – This helps remove particles that can cause respiratory illnesses, capturing them via an electric field and depositing them on collection plates.
- Gasification – This helps to avoid burning coal. Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) systems use hot pressurized air or oxygen and steam, which then combine with coal to force carbon molecules to separate. The result is syngas, which is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This is then cleaned and burned and has a strong potential to reach efficiency levels of nearly 50-percent.
- Carbon Capture and Storage – This is an exceptionally promising type of clean coal technology, which separates carbon dioxide emissions.
- Flue-Gas Separation – This helps remove harmful carbon monoxide with a solvent. The separation method is profitable, as usable carbon monoxide is produced.
Clean burning technology is an evolving process, one that is continually making great strides to use natural fossil fuels while simultaneously promoting environmental stewardship and safety.
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