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Earth Power Science Technology

New Process Takes Energy From Coal Without Burning It 365

Posted by samzenpus
from the easy-to-clean dept.
rtoz writes "Ohio State students have come up with a scaled-down version of a power plant combustion system with a unique experimental design--one that chemically converts coal to heat while capturing 99 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the reaction. Typical coal-fired power plants burn coal to heat water to make steam, which turns the turbines that produce electricity. In chemical looping, the coal isn't burned with fire, but instead chemically combusted in a sealed chamber so that it doesn't pollute the air. This new technology, called coal-direct chemical looping, was pioneered by Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State's Clean Coal Research Laboratory."
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New Process Takes Energy From Coal Without Burning It

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  • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:19PM (#42974671)
    Sounds nice, except for the 'combusted in a sealed chamber' bit. How is this going to scale up so they can feed 100 tons/hr through the plant cycle? That is the question.
  • huge costs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:26PM (#42974717)

    "New technologies that use fossil fuels should not raise the cost of electricity more than 35 percent, while still capturing more than 90 percent of the resulting carbon dioxide. Based on the current tests with the research-scale plants, Fan and his team believe that they can meet or exceed that requirement"

    good luck selling that

  • by kasperd (592156) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:35PM (#42974797) Homepage Journal
    Maybe they can capture the carbon dioxide, but what are they going to do with it afterwards? Put it in a container and bury it underground? The carbon dioxide will still be there, and the only way to get rid of that is through another reaction, which most likely needs energy to happen.

    Another important question is the efficiency. Are they able to produce the same amount of electrical energy from each ton of coal as traditional methods? If their efficiency is worse, then I am very unimpressed. If their efficiency is better, then that may be a more interesting story than that of capturing the carbon dioxide.
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:41PM (#42974843) Journal

    We already burn a crap load of coal for our electricity. Wouldn't it be great if we worked to make it clean-er ( at least in terms of soot and mercury released into the air)? There isn't much on the horizon that could replace coal over night. We should try to find something will all due haste, but it wouldn't hurt to get the low hanging fruit. Its pretty much what Obama is doing now and its a sensible approach.

  • by Raptoer (984438) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:44PM (#42974877)

    Even if you don't sequester the carbon and just put it out a smoke stack you're still at an advantage over normal coal burning. One of the major problems with coal burning is not the CO2, but the fly ash that contains heavy metals and causes respiratory problems. This process allows for those heavy metals to be contained in the coal ash which is kept within the plant. Depending on the concentration of metals in the ash it may be economical to mine the ash.

    Additionally since the CO2 is pure it can be used industrially without having to distill out the nitrogen that you would if you got it from regular burning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:45PM (#42974887)

    I don't necessarily agree with scaling anymore. At least, scaling to the size of modern power plants. I'd rather we have MANY MANY smaller power plants scattered around than the larger ones we currently integrate.

    As this is chemical, and not combustion, (yes yes, sealed chamber...) it should not take up as nearly as much land as required by current plants. Also, just think of all the job creation all those small power plants will require!!!

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @10:08PM (#42975065)

    “Unfortunately, it also produces carbon dioxide, which is difficult to capture and bad for the environment"
    Without carbon dioxide, the carbon cycle wouldn't exist and all plants and animals would die.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @10:26PM (#42975175) Journal

    No matter how you slice it you're still left with an assload of carbon that has to go SOMEWHERE so what are you gonna do with it? Frankly that's always been the problem, what to do with all the waste that is left over. TFA I notice is awful light on the details about what EXACTLY if left after this chemical burning, is it a paste, a gel, powder, maybe i missed it but I couldn't find any clear answer on that.

    But at the end of the day that is still hundreds of tons of waste you are gonna have to put somewhere, the big question is where because as we saw with Yucca flats pretty much any place you pick is gonna have NIMBYs coming out the woodwork so what are you gonna do with it? This is why I've always supported the new nuclear reactors with reprocessing, it lets you re-use as much as possible until the waste is much smaller and has a much lower half life but no matter how you slice it the stuff left over is gonna have to be put somewhere.

    But like coal or hate it we are gonna end up having to use at least some of it because our power needs have gone nowhere but up and this at least sounds like the waste is in solid form instead of gas which will make handling and disposal easier, if not politically then at least physically.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @10:34PM (#42975231)

    Coal isn't clean though. This would clean up the side of the equation where you're burning it. But, it would do absolutely nothing for the mining aspect of it. Which is a huge mess as it stands. If you want to burn things for energy, you're better off starting with something like trees which are mostly carbon neutral as it is.

    Sure, it's technically clean if you ignore the incredible damage that it reeks on the landscape, but it's definitely not clean in a practical sense.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:20PM (#42975523) Journal

    You joke but there is a reason why China is gonna have 25 new nuclear reactors up and running before we get a single one out of committee and that is because no matter what you propose the NIMBYs will try to cock block. Wind? "It'll spoil our view and kill the birds!" Hydro? "It'll run the flow and hurt the fishies!" No matter what tech you use the NIMBYs will come out and try to cock block you here.

    So I doubt even being made in Ohio with Ohio coal will help, the NIMBYs will come try and cock block anything being built there. I swear listening to the NIMBYs you'd think the power fairy was gonna provide our needs, because they sure as fuck don't want a single thing built.

  • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:16AM (#42975881)

    there is a reason why China is gonna have 25 new nuclear reactors up and running before we get a single one out of committee

    And that reason is quite simply, China does not care about it's people.

  • by AJWM (19027) on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:11AM (#42976761) Homepage

    Coal is 84% carbon, 10% oxygen, 4% hydrogen, and 2% nitrogen (or so). Short of nuclear fission or fusion, you're going to get carbon and oxygen out of it no matter what you do.

    Now there's an idea. You'd actually get more energy running the 0.0...whatever percent thorium that's in coal through a fission reactor than you do by oxidizing the carbon.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@world3AAA.net minus threevowels> on Friday February 22, 2013 @05:41AM (#42977387) Homepage

    In principal I have no problem with the government subsidizing energy, just as long as it subsidizes the right stuff. Efficiency improvements and clean energy are fine, gas and nuclear not so much.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday February 22, 2013 @09:02AM (#42978375) Journal

    "Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" (ST reference) is the basic theme of China.

    You are forgetting that most of the western world, having industrialised earlier has been through the "let's trash the environment" stage, and after decades of rivers which burn or stink so badly they make a capital city nearly uninhabitable or spills of toxic waste which cause all sorts of nasty deaths, the western countries have solwly and painfully come to the realisation that it's actually not a very good idea to do all that.

    I think this has little to do with cultural values and much to do with industrialisation being difficult and because it is easier to mess things up than not, and therefore comes earlier on in the process.

    Also, it's a product of industrialising countries nort really quite realising how much they can mess stuff up until they experience it.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:06PM (#42981179)
    Because it's not that simple. The free market chooses the cheapest route, but that ignores externalized costs. Externalized costs which are still costs to the rest of us. Right now, that cheapest route is coal, and those externalized costs are very high.

    If they raise taxes to implement whatever clean energy you prefer, but prevent climate change, a lot more people will come out ahead on that transaction than lose out. The only reason we're not already doing it is that the few would-be-losers are being astonishingly selfish and short-sighted.

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