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September 30, 2010Blog

Clean Coal Technologies

RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Seems like clean coal technologies should occupy higher visibility in the renewable energy space, never mind that it is not actually renewable energy. These technologies, when commercial-scale operation is finally achieved, will in all likelihood account for the single most important means of reducing CO2. An article in The New York Times last week pointed out that coal-based power is increasing so rapidly in developing countries that, without meaningful carbon capture and storage (CCS), we may not be able to meet world climate goals.

There are a number of emerging technologies. Scientists at Sydney University are working to develop “molecular sponges” which are crystals peppered with microscopic holes that can retain gasses, such as CO2 and methane, and are also working small sponges that can reportedly soak up to 90 percent of emissions from coal-fired power plants. In the U.S., scientists are working on Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) which extracts CO2 directly from the coal and removes it before the power is created. Skyonic has developed a process that converts smokestack fumes into harmless baking soda and other minerals.

Funding for these technologies, like all technologies that have yet to achieve commercial-scale operations, has been hard to come by. One bright spot though, is the announcement this morning that DOE has committed $1 billion in stimulus funds to the Future-Gen clean coal project. This project will help Ameren Corp’s Meredosia, Illinois plant be re-fitted to burn coal instead of oil and will employ an oxy-combustion technology to capture and store CO2 underground. It will also serve as a testing ground for other new clean-energy technologies.

It will be interesting to see if this project can capture and sustain public interest.

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