I was wondering if we as Mankind could clean up coal and if it was worth the hassle. Indeed, Carbon Capture and Storage seems promising but is too little too late to solve our climate change problems.
To an article on the New York Times, an alternative to CCS could drastically cut greenhouse gases emissions from coal-fired plants. Called IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) it sounds promising.
As Ecogeek noted, it already exists and consumes a third less coal than standard plants to generate the same quantity of electricity. It is not fantastic, but it’s a start…As the New York Times explains:
(…) Companies including General Electric have already perfected technology to reduce emissions substantially, called “integrated gasification combined cycle” power. (Yes, it needs a better name.)
Current coal-fired power plants burn pulverized coal using a combustion process that hasn’t changed in a half a century. The new approach turns coal into a gas similar to natural gas, which runs through a device similar to a jet engine.
Such plants can achieve near-zero emissions of toxic material and chemicals that form smog, and they require about a third less coal than regular coal-fired power plants to produce an equal amount of energy, which means about a third lower greenhouse gases.
Beyond that, the promising technology of “sequestering” carbon dioxide — pumping it back into the ground to keep it out of atmosphere — appears for technical reasons to be impractical for conventional pulverized-coal power plants.
But gasification plants have technical characteristics that should make “sequestration” of carbon feasible. A gasification power plant with sequestration would have around two-thirds lower greenhouse gases than a conventional coal-fired generating station.
The first commercial gasification power plant, designed by General Electric for Duke Energy, is being built in Indiana.
The main drawback of the technology is its cost. But one can believe that once climate change mitigation would REALLY be a priority to coal burning countries, IGCC will be worth implementing massively.