Coal? Really?

05/25/2011 02:20 pm ET
  • Jonathan A. Schein Highly regarded as a media and business executive. Noted for his thought leadership ability to quickly take advantage of new technologies and apply them to markets and the underlying structures of business, governmental and social trends.

There is a new development in the burning of coal and the reduction of
greenhouse emissions.  Recently a pilot project conducted in Pleasant
Prarie, Wisconsin tested an advanced chilled ammonia process to see how
much carbon dioxide(CO2) could be captured from a coal-fueled plant. The
test showed that more than 90 percent of CO2 was indeed captured according
to published reports.  The test was conducted by We Energies, Alstom, and
The Electric Power Research Institute.

As part of the process, this CO2 will be compressed, put in a pipeline and
injected in to two saline reservoirs 8,000 beneath the plant site.  There
are already plans in place for projects based on this research, including retrofitting
existing plants such as the 20-megawatt capture system at AEP's 1,300-megawatt
Mountaineer Plant, which will remove an estimated 90% of CO2 emissions,
resulting in up to 100,000 metric tons per year.

It's too early to say what this means for the future of coal-burning plants. Coal, an
abundant resource in this country, has been estimated to give us at least 400 years of
independent energy. But it's no secret that coal has taken its toll in terms of
greenhouse gases and the effects of mining on the environment not to mention the health hazards to the miners.

Is this new process the answer?  Only time will tell.  The real promise in
this study is that the coal industry is waking up to the fact that the old way
of doing business is no longer viable and that it must
come up with alternative ways of burning this raw material to stay in

Of course we must keep a very skeptical eye on this development.  However, at the least, this process could lead to a new way of burning
coal that could contribute to discovering technologies leading to a clean and energy-independent future as well as creating new jobs in the green economy. In a
word, it's a start.  Let's see where it goes from here.

Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of and