Fuel for the Future: Processed High Quality Coals for Low- and Zero-emissions Power (Featured Review)

“All you need to know about clean coal technology to realise that coal combustion will still be a major contributor to clean energy production.”

Today’s featured review is of George Domazetis’ volume Fuel for the Future: Processed High Quality Coals for Low- and Zero-emissions Power. The volume examines efforts by both industry and governments to develop a cleaner use of low rank coals, presenting leading research on creating affordable, high-quality fuel for efficient power generation, with a trajectory toward affordable zero-emissions production.

You can read the review below:

“This book is timely in that it addresses the worldwide concerns associated with the consequences of climate change and focuses on a new technological process, which in conjunction with existing clean energy production initiatives, can address the phenomenon whilst simultaneously providing universal affordable energy requirements at both the industrial and domestic levels.

It recognizes that remediation of climate change has scientific, technological, social, political and environmental dimensions which are interwoven into plans for the production of affordable energy with zero environmental emissions. It also recognizes, a priori, that achieving energy security both at present and in the future relies on a blend of energy resources including combustion of fossil fuels. In this context, this book focuses on chemical processing of low rank coals into high quality fuels for power generation with zero pollutant emission. Thus, its primary focus is on the principles and practices of ‘Clean Coal Technology’ (CCT) and its future manifestation in zero-emission power generation plants.

It concedes that ‘clean coal’ is a difficult concept for communities to accept in view of the widespread condemnation of ‘traditional’ coal-fired power stations and increasing public demonstrations for these to be universally decommissioned to reduce carbon emissions and hence address the existing consequences of climate change. However, it also recognizes that there is no ‘quick fix’ to the problem of climate change as shown in attempts by various nations of the world agreeing ‘in principle’ to progressively reduce carbon emissions over decade time frames. It is now widely acknowledged by the energy industry from detailed economic projections that only a ‘mix’ of ‘clean energy’ strategies will ultimately make these emission targets achievable both in the short and long terms.

The text is divided into nine chapters, each of which is a comprehensive review of the title topics and supported by an extensive literature survey. Chapter 1 commences with a discussion of ‘the future of coal-fueled power generation’ leading to a conclusion that coal power generation is likely to remain the major source of electricity for the foreseeable future. Thus, the sustainable (clean) energy mix of the future will include zero emission fossil fuel combustion, gas, solar, wind, hydro and to a lesser extent, nuclear. In conjunction with efficient, clean, affordable power generation, efficiencies must be undertaken by power consumers both industrial, commercial and domestic, to reduce demand.

In this context, existing clean coal technology programs as developed in the USA, China, Japan and the EU together with an innovative plan developed by the author are attracting paramount scrutiny and interest. The classification of coal and its physical and chemical properties follows as essential basic knowledge required for the processing of low rank coals into high quality fuels. Chapter 1 concludes with a review of existing coal-fueled power generation in a carbon-constrained future, which emphasizes the hurdles which have to be overcome to achieve functional, efficient and sustainable zero emission power generation plants.

Chapter 2 is devoted to an in-depth discussion of the chemical properties of low rank coals, inclusive of the techniques which have been used to elucidate their molecular structure and characterize the inorganic inclusions. Coal combustion chemistry and the gasification of ‘processed coal’ is also discussed in the context of defining the conditions required for processing. These chemical data are essential in designing a zero emissions power generation plant along with minimum waste production.

Chapter 3 extends the chemical discussion in Chapter 2 to an in-depth review of the molecular model structures of low rank coals which have been progressively developed in conjunction with computational modelling which in turn has been used to develop a sequence of chemical transformations of brown coal pyrolysis and char formation in the presence and absence of inorganics which provide valuable insights into the combustion efficiency process.

Chapter 4 is devoted to the thermochemistry and chemical kinetics of coal combustion in conjunction with the reactions which produce gaseous pollutants and inorganic ash and the thermodynamic models of coal combustion which have been proposed based on such data are discussed.

Chapter 5 discusses the present situation with respect to coal fueled power generation and the associated low level of efficiency due to aging plants and increasing essential maintenance to meet increased demand. The more recent innovations which have been introduced to enhance the efficiency of coal fueled power plants are discussed which support various methods of coal processing prior to combustion which clearly show that pre-processing of coal is the way forward to clean coal power generation.

Chapter 6 is devoted to detailed discussions of an array of processing procedures for converting low rank coals into high quality fuels. These include drying, sulphur removal, hydrothermal, caustic and acid treatment and solvent extraction procedures, removal of inorganic ash constituents and demineralizing procedures. Waste water treatment of the plant effluent is also discussed.

Chapter 7 is a comprehensive discussion of the chemistry associated with coal gasification in conjunction with the three main types of gasifier. A key feature of this process is the formation of char, the composition of which is critically dependent on the ‘inorganics content’.

Chapter 8 details the types and function of catalysts that are employed in low rank coal gasification and how these influence the pyrolysis process via formation of ‘active sites’. It is apparent from chemical reaction modelling studies that as the coal gasification process becomes more refined via progressive understanding of the specificity of the catalysts employed that coal gasification in conjunction with pre-processed coal feed stock will become the heart of the next generation of energy plants with near zero emission of pollutants, high thermal efficiency and carbon dioxide capture.

Chapter 9 summarizes current technologies being explored in establishing next generation power plants involving processed low rank coal as ‘non-fouling coal’, ‘ultra clean (near zero ash) coal and catalytic coal for gasification in conjunction with ‘combined cycle plants’ along with consideration of ‘economics’ and ‘efficiencies’ of each of these processes. A general treatment of various economic modelling strategies is used to illustrate the potential of affordable zero emissions coal power generation. The chapter concludes with an informative insight into a ‘zero emissions trajectory for future power generation’ which effectively endorses the initial hypothesis that fossil fuels in conjunction with clean coal technology will have  significant influence and impact on future clean energy production.

This book is a unique compendium in that it not only addresses the controversial paradox that fossil fuels will still have a role in future power generation but also the oxymoron that ‘clean coal’ is a credible and realistic fuel of the future. Effectively, the book is an encyclopedia of existing knowledge of ‘clean coal technology’ and as such is an essential desktop reference for those in     the energy production industry, energy policy makers, energy engineers, renewable energy sector personnel, climate scientists and all those concerned with being scientifically informed on the causes and effects of climate change in conjunction with viable technologies and methodologies for its remediation.”

– John Hill, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

Our thanks go to Prof. Hill for allowing us to reproduce the review. If you’d like to read an extract of the book or purchase your copy, you can click here.

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