Talk to any eco-activist, and you will soon know who their #1 villain is: Coal.
OK, the world has heard them, and the power plant owners have responded by saying they will try to make coal clean.
Ugh. How indeed can coal be clean?
Well, coal is dirty of course, and it will and does release gobs of CO2 when used as fuel to generate power.
At the same time, how much ever we hate coal, a large part of the world’s power generation will come from coal for at least the next few decades, if not more. While renewables and other relatively cleaner fuels are catching up, they are not going to replace coal in a big way very soon.
Thus, what a number of coal power plants worldwide are doing is to reduce the amount of CO2 that is generated from power generation. The technologies and processes that aim to achieve this objective are collectively called Clean Coal technologies.
Specifically, the Clean Coal term is used to denote
- A range of technologies which can either reduce the amount of CO2 released per unit of electricity generated – This can be done by altering the processes and/or using different power generation technologies in coal based power plants, resulting in a more efficient power generation and thus less CO2 emitted per unit of electricity generated, or
- A range of technologies that can capture and store the CO2 released from coal power plants – This phase takes care of the CO2 that has been generated. The technology solutions are aimed at capturing and storing the CO2 – this process is called Carbon Capture & Storage (also called Carbon Sequestration).
As you can see, both the above approaches reduce the total amount of CO2 released from a coal plant, thus making coal-based power generation “clean”.
Not convinced? Well, that’s pretty much how things are right now.
A couple of years back, I wrote a review report on carbon capture & storage from coal power plants. During that research, I discovered that success has been achieved into reducing the amount of CO2 released while generating power coal using coal. However, efforts towards capturing and storing the CO2 released were still nascent, very nascent.