Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coal Gasification Makes Clean Use of Dirty Coal

There is a clean way to use cheap dirty coal.  It's called IGCC -- integrated gasification combined cycle.  By turning coal into syngas (hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane etc) you are able to separate the pollutants from the energy, and cleanly dispose of the sulfur, mercury, etc.  By implementing CHP -- combined heat and power -- you can raise total efficiencies close to 90%.   Gasification of coal is becoming more popular worldwide.  The same type of gasification plants can be used for both cheap coal and biomass.

Coal can also be gasified in situ, as an alternative to mining the coal and gasifying in a special plant.  In situ gasification of coal is still being perfected, but it may be far less disruptive to ecosystems than traditional methods of coal mining and utilisation.

Plasma gasification is an interesting approach to producing energy from carbon sources -- including garbage and waste.  Plasma gasification can break materials down to their component atoms -- rendering even highly toxic and infectious biowaste harmless.

Solar gasification of biomass, coal, waste, or any carbon source, is another variation on the gasification theme which may find a profitable economic niche.

Low-tech gasification is coming to individual homeowners -- allowing them to heat and eventually power their homes via the near-complete combustion of wood and other carbon sources.

The long term future of bioenergy will depend upon microbes and advanced bioreactors.  Microbe bioreactors are intrinsically more efficient at extracting non-heat energy due to the catalytic nature of bioreactors.

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