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‘Clean coal’ may be fuel of future

BRITAIN’S coalmines could be revived and become a primary source of fuel for generating electricity.

The government’s forthcoming energy review will suggest that “clean coal” — a technique for burning coal that releases a minimum of carbon dioxide — is now among the most promising technologies for meeting Britain’s energy needs.

The review, due to be published next month, is attracting huge attention because it will make recommendations on new nuclear power stations.

The review team has concluded that the next generation of high-technology coal-fired power stations, backed by a revived mining industry, could meet much of the demand for cheap, secure energy. Britain has enough known reserves of coal to last for up to 100 years.

A report from the Clean Coal Task Group, set up by Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, to contribute to the review, says: “Indigenous coal has an essential role in securing peak electricity supplies. It is secure, affordable and long-term.”

Once there were dozens of coalmines in Britain employing tens of thousands. Now, however, there are just eight deep pits still working and 30-40 smaller, open-cast sites.

The remaining pits can undercut imported coal but are hamstrung by planning restrictions and find it hard to attract investors because energy prices fluctuate. If... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The government’s forthcoming energy review will suggest that “clean coal” — a technique for burning coal that releases a minimum of carbon dioxide — is now among the most promising technologies for meeting Britain’s energy needs.
 
The review, due to be published next month, is attracting huge attention because it will make recommendations on new nuclear power stations.
 
The review team has concluded that the next generation of high-technology coal-fired power stations, backed by a revived mining industry, could meet much of the demand for cheap, secure energy. Britain has enough known reserves of coal to last for up to 100 years.
 
A report from the Clean Coal Task Group, set up by Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, to contribute to the review, says: “Indigenous coal has an essential role in securing peak electricity supplies. It is secure, affordable and long-term.”
 
Once there were dozens of coalmines in Britain employing tens of thousands. Now, however, there are just eight deep pits still working and 30-40 smaller, open-cast sites.
 
The remaining pits can undercut imported coal but are hamstrung by planning restrictions and find it hard to attract investors because energy prices fluctuate. If coalmining were revived such problems could be swept away.
 
The plan could be a political boon for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Many Labour MPs would be delighted to see the return of an industry with powerful historical links to the party.
 
The review will stress that Britain needs a mixture of energy generating capacity that could include coal, nuclear, gas and renewable stock. The exact proportions would be decided by the market, as the government no longer builds power stations, but the scenarios being discussed for 2015 envisage up to 30% coming from coal, 20% from wind and 10% from nuclear. The rest, about 40%, would come from gas.
 
The role of nuclear will shrink by 2015 due to closures of existing stations, but may then grow as new ones come onstream.
 
Coal already generates about 36% of the nation’s electricity, but all 18 coal-fired power stations are now ageing and inefficient, producing high levels of greenhouse gases. Under EU rules six are so polluting that they must soon close. Their loss, along with scheduled closures of several nuclear and oil-fired power stations, could lead to an energy shortfall by 2015.
 
The Clean Coal Task Group of senior civil servants,engineers and power industry figures concluded that existing power stations could be easily fitted with new “supercritical” boilers that would extend their lives by 40 years and cut emissions by 20%.
 
Supercriticality involves burning coal at much higher temperatures, which generates steam at very high pressure. This is used to drive turbines. Less energy is lost as heat, so more can be generated per ton of coal.
 
However it is a separate technology called carbon sequestration that would make coal truly clean. Carbon dioxide is stripped out of the flue gases and pumped into underground reservoirs rather than being released into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.
 
The report says the cost would be about £250m to £350m for a typical coal-fired power station. A nuclear power station would cost about £2 billion to build and have unknown extra costs to deal with radioactive waste.
 
Wicks said: “We still have substantial coal reserves and there are arguments for maintaining production from them.”
 
Britain produces about 20m tons a year and 42m tons is imported, mostly from Russia and South Africa, at a cost of £200m a year.
 
David Brewer, director general of the Confederation of UK Coal Producers, said accessible reserves of 1billion to 2 billion tons were enough to last for up to 100 years.
 
He said: “We know that global demand for coal is going to rise. It makes sense to develop our own coal mines.”
 
 
 
 
 


Source: http://www.timesonline.co....

JUN 11 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3002-clean-coal-may-be-fuel-of-future
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