I watched the horrid debate last night, if I wasn’t already disgusted with Trump his performance would have pushed me in that direction. But that’s another story for another day. I want to discuss something I keep hearing from Trump. Trump and the R’s in general keep buzzwording “Clean Coal” and how the emission restrictions enacted by the Obama administration are hurting jobs and the economy. Every time I hear this schtick the words that pop into my head are “what about the environment jackass!?” Sometimes I think it so loudly people sitting in the room can hear me 🙂
Clean coal, (There are several processes of supposedly cleaning coal. The one I am describing is cited as the most hopeful in my limited research) is a process where they scrub CO2 from the coal smoke, run it into a solvent that absorbs the CO2, then gasify the solvent at high heat, thereby releasing the CO2, then pressurizing it and disposing of it through deep well injection into sandstone or depleted oceanic oil deposits. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well not so fast. Even with this very expensive technology, and its very high operating demand, (as much as 25-30% of a coal plants output) with the current tech and actual (now no longer operating) operating facilities, they were only capturing a few hundred tons of CO2 per day. This when an average coal plant emits 5000 tons of CO2 per day!
American Electric Power, a large power company I believe based in Ohio, built their test facility at their Mountaineer plant in W. Virginia. They did a proof of concept run (between Oct 2009 and May 2011), that shows they can make coal cleaner, but the cost and the inneffeciency has proven in the long run that clean coal is a myth. Such a low carbon capture rate compounded by extreme costs, and extreme power consumption, led to them shelving the notion of large scale expansion. (they blamed uncertain regulations and the economy, if you are interested see the second link at the bottom of this post.) Also the long term storage of any sequestered CO2 is questionable at best. Who can gurantee this stored CO2 will stay where it is put? Who wants to take the heat when something goes wrong 20 years down the road?
No one is making clean coal today and damn well likely not tomorrow either.
The notion of clean coal is an oxymoron. They can make coal cleaner than it is, but not by a large enough percentage to make a noticeable dent in our CO2 footprint. Clean coal is nothing more than buzz word pandering to voters in coal states, and a political fantasy. At least with todays technology.
Until someone comes up with an economic coal cleaning plan that reduces carbon emissions by at least 50% I think they are chasing their tails. Chasing tails while amusing, in this case adds up to many millions if not billions of wasted dollars. See here:
That link is about a new clean coal plant in Mississippi. It was supposed to be the latest greatest cleanest coal plant ever. However at this time it has become mired in cost overruns and piss poor management. Thanks to a whistle blower much of the problems came to light. Now if and when they can get this plant operational and show their actual numbers I’ll be glad to reconsider my notion of the high improbability of anything resembling clean coal at this time in our history.