Today's subject: The Clean Coal technology
The use of hard coal for the generation of energy is frequently criticized because of the emission of harmful gas into the atmosphere and as a result of that because of the negative consequences for the global climate. This complex was the subject of a publication of the German Gesamtverband des Deutschen Steinkohlenbergbaus that can be downloaded at www.gvst.de. What is written in this article is based on the publication mentionned before.
The most important criterion in this context is the efficiency of the technology used in the different power plants. The targets are comparable to those of economics: In order to increase efficiency with the same amount of a certain factor (in this case it is hard coal) more output (here: energy, warmth etc.) has to be produced (maximisation) or the same output has to be produced with a smaller amount of the special factor.
In the last years the Kyoto treaties have been mentionned several times. They prescribe a strong reduction of the emissions of carbon dioxide, but unfortunately not all countries have signed these treaties. The countries that do not take part in it justify that with the fact that the Kyoto treaties' targets concerning the reduction of emissions can never be reached if economically strong growing countries like China are not integrated - even if the Kyoto countries work as hard as they can.
The solution presented for the problems mentionned before is the development of new technologies for a more environment-friendly and by that efficient use of the resources. Concerning the use of hard coal the so called Clean Coal Technology could be the key to a reduction of the emissions - even the EU discovered the importance of this technology in the last time. At the moment, Germany has a top position concerning the developments in this area - but that position will have to be protected and improved. For a good use of the technologies a permanent development has to be made, new materials have to be discovered and checked and finally there has to be an intensive cooperation between the most different areas of science. In the next paragraphs there will be an overview of the technological aspects presented in the publication and finally there will be a summary and a conclusion drawn from what is written before.
A very important factor for the power plants' efficiency is the temperature of the steam used in the plants for generating energy. The most recent power plants using hard coal have an efficiency of about 45 % with a steam temperature of ca. 620 degrees Celsius. In a first step the target is to increase the efficiency up to 50 % (an improvement of more than 10 % !). As a consequence power plants and materials have to be developped in which steam with a temperature of about 700 degrees Celsius can be used. The second step are power plants with an efficiency of much more than 50 %. To reach that target it is not enough to develop new materials, in addition to that the process of transformation from hard coal to energy will have to be changed, as well. If you want to know more about the technological aspects, please take a look at the publication on which this exposition is based. If you want to see an interesting diagram with a comparison of the efficiency of power plants in different countries - please click here.
Summary and conclusions:
The efficiency of power plants is one of the very important factors determining whether a certain resource - in this case the hard coal - can be used environment-friendly for the generation of energy or not. In relation to earlier times today's carbon dioxide emissions of German power plants using hard coal have been strongly reduced - in contrary to the well known cliché the sky over the Ruhr area is no longer dark and dirty.
But even if this is the case the development and the research may not be stopped. There are too many strong competitors from economically fast growing countries like China or other industrialized high-technology countries like the United States. At the moment Germany is very competitive concerning the Clean Coal Technology - a place that has to be defended. Technological advantages can be lost very fast if other countries become better and better by the time - and if there is not enough domestic research and development.
The conclusion of what is written before is a long "chain" of arguments: As I described the defending of a top position requires a lot of research, so that there has to be the possibility to do that research in Germany in order to be able to realize the technological advantage Germany actually has. Prerequisite of that is a vivid German hard coal mining industry, because it guarantees a safe supply with hard coal and an independence from foreign suppliers for a long time and by that the corresponding and required possibilities for research and development. As a consequence, the new technologies can be exported into less developped countries in order to make it possible for them to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
The final target of all research and development mentionned before must be the power plant that does not cause any emissions - the so called "zero emissions power plant" that makes it possible to use hard coal for the generation of energy without causing any emissions of carbon dioxide. Even if this may sound a bit strange at the moment, that is a view into the future that is not really as far away as some people might think it is. But: That target can only be reached with a vivid German hard coal mining industry - and that is what Pro-Bergbau stands for.