Ryan Jacob CAE (Clean Air Engineering) On Coal Power Plants
Ryan Jacob CAE: Reducing Air Pollution from Coal Power Plants
In the United States, about 30% of the electricity generated still comes from coal-fired power plants. While coal is an affordable source of energy, it also produces a large amount of carbon dioxide which exacerbates global warming and climate change, explains Ryan Jacob, a CAE or clean air engineering student. Shutting down coal-fired power plants overnight isn’t possible as well, so the next best thing is to find ways to reduce the carbon emissions they produce. Image Source: Forbes.com
1. Fuel switching – Fuel switching is the act of replacing dirty, non-renewable fossil fuels like coal with clean, renewable fuels such as natural gas. Of course, making the switch isn’t without costs — in fact, it’s likely the No. 1 reason why owners of coal-fired power plants are delaying the move. Ryan Jacob CAE explains that coal boilers can only operate on natural gas after significant modifications and reconfigurations. Another reason why coal-fired power plants will not budge from using coal is because natural gas may be more expensive as a fuel source. With all that said however, fuel switching is possible, albeit economically unviable for owners.
2. Improve the efficiency of coal power plants – Efficiency improvements can help lessen CO2 emissions while increasing the amount of energy that can be extracted from a single unit of coal. CAE Ryan Jacob shares that coal-fired power plants also need upgrading. When constructing a new facility, high strength alloy steels should be used. These materials can produce steam at higher temperatures and pressures, which is effective at minimizing potential heat losses. The World Coal Association reports that a 1% improvement in the efficiency of a conventional pulverized coal combustion plant results in a 2-3% reduction in CO2 emissions.
Moreover, the World Coal Association found that increasing the current average global efficiency rate of coal-fired power plants from 33% to 40% by deploying more advanced off-the-shelf technology could cut two gigatons of CO2 emissions right this moment. To give you an idea of the impact of two gigatons of CO2 emissions, that’s equivalent to India’s annual CO2 emissions.
3. Capture CO2 in flue gas – Another way to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants is to utilize technologies that capture CO2 in flue gas. Unfortunately, carbon capture strategies have yet to be employed on a commercial scale, although researchers and scientists are close to taking back and transforming CO2 into something useful, shares CAE Ryan Jacob.
At the University of Aberdeen in UK, Dr. Mohammed Salah-Eldin Imbabi’s Carbon Capture Machine directs flue gas into slightly alkaline water where it dissolves to produce carbonate. The carbonated water is then mixed with brine or water with a high concentration of salt and dissolved calcium and magnesium ions. Once precipitation occurs, the calcium carbonate from the solution can be used for a wide variety of things, like making bricks, toothpaste, and laxatives, to name a few. This is just one example of a promising startup that is finding ways to convert CO2 pollution.
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