9  More than a Mat at Doorstep to Clean Up Coal


The Globe and Mail (10/9, "Clean Uses of Coal" by Kevin Bambrough, Sprott Asset Management), informs us: "Allen Wright, CEO of the Coal Association of Canada, sees the future of coal through a pragmatic lens: ‘There’s no doubt that we’ll continue to rely on coal as a valuable part of the global energy mix. Considering Canada’s significant coal resources, it is not a question whether we will continue using coal, but how we can use it better.’

"Canada has at present sufficiently proven coal reserves to last more than 230 years. Rising concerns over energy security and the environment have led to concerted efforts to deploy technologies that will enable the use of all this abundant resource responsibly and maximize its economic usefulness.

"With 12 billion tonnes of near-surface coal reserves, Sherritt is Canada’s largest coal producer. Company spokesman Michael Minnes says, ‘There is no question that coal will be part of the energy mix moving forward. It makes sense to embrace the asset and the technologies that enable its responsible, profitable use.’

"Among the innovative options being pursued by Sherritt and others is coal gasification, which can be configurated to produce efficiently synthesis gas (syngas) of hydrogen, as well as electricity, steam, and a host of industrial byproducts through a near-zero emissions process.

"In Ottawa, Natural Resources Canada research scientist Bruce Clements heads the CANMET Combustion Optimization Group. He says a key function of a gasifier is to convert coal into syngas.

"‘Once you have syngas, it can be used to produce hydrogen, which is very important to oil sands processing,’ says Mr. Clements, who adds, ‘Chemicals produced by gasifiers could be adapted to produce nitrogen for fertilizer, chemicals for almost anything – polymers, plastics.’

"Mr. Clements says an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) facility produces electricity by combusting cleaned syngases in a turbine and by capturing waste heat, which is exhausted to generate steam in a boiler. ‘This way you are running a gas turbine cycle and a steam cycle.’

"‘When CO2 capture and sequestration technology is added, an IGCC is a near zero-emissions polygeneration facility. Even its waste CO2 – a greenhouse gas – can be used for industrial purposes such as enhanced oil recovery, or stored safely underground. Mr. Minnes says that while IGCC technology has been successful in countries around the world, it is new in Canada. Sherritt’s proposed Dodds-Roundhill Coal Gasification Project in Alberta has the potential to incorporate an IGCC facility into the overall footprint of its gasification project, which would make it Canada’s first fully operational IGCC facility.

"The production of syngas through coal gasification would provide an alternative to natural gas now used to produce stead steam and hydrogen for bitumen extraction and upgrading.

"He adds, ‘With IGCC, you use a low-ranking fuel (coal) to create high-value products. It is a responsible use of fossil fuel with low to zero impact on the environment.’"

That sounds to our ears as a giant patter of steps in the proper direction.


– from Economic Reform, October 2007