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Published:Monday, February 25, 2019 4:23 PM

Insights on Clean Coal Technologies



Coal has always remained a prime target at every roundtable discussions of energy industry. Some perceptions have been developed in the system on coal as a dirty resource due to its contributions to carbon emissions and that it would find hard to secure place in world’s energy mix for longer term. A lot of clamor is also heard on particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide affecting health of people around the world thereby prompting the industry to take required urgent actions wherever possible. But there is no denying the fact that coal will continue to be critical part in most of the nation’s energy strategy. Other energy resources such as solar and wind might be sharing large chunk in energy-mix, but coal will continue its dominance in next 30-35 years owing to cater the base load demand, cost advantage and its abundance. In view of this, some technological advancements or low emission carbon technologies have been stepped up. This has led to arrival of new term called as Clean Coal. It basically refers to set of technologies devised to prevent rapid climate change. Clean coal technologies (CCT) include Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Coal gasification, circulating fluidized-bed technology (CFB) etc. that aims to optimize process of thermal power plants to increase electricity generation with minimum coal input as a primary fuel.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

Acknowledged as a proven technology, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by involving three steps: Capture, Transport and Storage. Carbon-di-oxide is grabbed from emitting source/location and then it is compressed and transported through suitable medium to depository or storage. The storage is generally deep underground formations at depth of more than a kilometer. CCS has positioned itself as the only clean technology efficient enough to decarbonize major industrial sectors such as Cement, Steel, Petrochemicals and Refining. It is high time to shift CCS technology from being a marginal player to mainstream mitigator.

Coal Gasification

Coal Gasification entails conversion of coal to high content gas. This process is practiced as Surface & Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) that has achieved a significant environmental and economic       importance. Underground gasification or in-situ gasification is a chemical conversion of deeply buried coal into a blend of carbon-di-oxide, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane. The mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen is known as Synthetic gas (Synngas) which is utilized as fuel. UCG is ideally suitable when conventional mining of coal is not possible.  Moreover, lower capital investment costs, elimination of coal handling and solid wastes, zero labor force for underground coal mining, negligible transportation costs are some of the advantages that makes UCG a best clean coal technology.

Circulating fluidized-bed (CFB) technology          

Today CFB technology is referred as utility-scale boiler technology as it serves the solution for two key issues i.e. efficiency and environmental performance of power plants. Circulating fluidized-bed boilers are typically in range of 250 to 300 MW. Unlike the conventional steam generators, CFB does not have burners or flame within furnace. It is a low temperature combustion mechanism than can burn carbon-neutral fuels and traditional fuels too. They are poised to scale-up their range as further research and developments are underway in efficiency improvement and reduced capital cost. High combustion efficiency, fuel flexibility, excellent heat transfer distribution while on pollution control front, SOx and NOx emissions are decreased to much extent. These advantages have gained CFB the most used technology since last decades.


Few results of these revolutionary technologies claimed to have reduced emissions and energy efficient during pilot project deployed by Carbon Clean Solutions (CCSL), an Anglo-Indian firm. But the upfront and operational cost of clean coal technologies appeared to be high enough that indicated one question that does Clean Coal technologies have a future? Proponents of alternative energy resources want investments should be done on solar and wind sectors instead of pouring money into implementation of clean coal technologies. Some industry experts believe that the economics on clean coal would not work in an era where price of electricity from solar and wind power is falling sharply.

The fact that should be recalled that it was only the technology which proved the predictions wrong on shortage of oil and brought the world a notable quantum of oil reserves that can be supplied to industries. At this juncture the potential of innovation and technology should not be underestimated but must be undertaken to provide the solution for a sustainable future of the coal.

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