February 28, 2013

New Coal Breakthrough Could Make it Cleanest Energy Source

(photo credit: Jo McCulty/Ohio State University)
A new technological breakthrough could make coal the cleanest energy source available to man. If it becomes a reality, the amount of coal in Kentucky, and other parts of the world, would make it an astounding advance which would have long-term implications in many areas.

What is the secret to this amazing discovery? According to Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer and director of Ohio State University’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory, the lab has "found a way to release the heat from coal without burning it." He added that "This could be applicable for many industries.”

There is already talk of the possibility of a coal-powered car that would be so clean there would be virtually no emissions that would cause pollution.

How it works is iron-oxide pellets are used as an oxygen source, where the reaction is contained in a tiny chamber where the pollutants are unable to escape. There would be no release of greenhouse gases, with the only waste product being solid coal ash and water. Additionally, the metal from the iron-oxide would be able to be recycled.

As for coal being used to power cars, that has already been introduced in South Africa in the form of liquefied coal. It's more of a hybrid than that of the type of coal use we're talking about in the article.

The next general step for the new coal technology is to test it in a larger environment. To that end it is being taken to a larger facility in Alabama.

Fan believes within five to ten years the technology can be commercialized, assuming no major, unknown obstacles emerge in the process.

Test in regard to generating power have resulted in 25 kilowatts of thermal energy. In the Alabama facility it would be able to generate 250 kilowatts.

While there are sceptics concerning the new technology, the federal Department of Energy sees a lot of potential, and believes by 2020 the technology could produce 20 megawatts to 50 megawatts of power.

Any new technology has its uncertainties, but this appears to be the real thing. While projections are usually overly ambitious in the short term, in the long term they can be understated. It appears it's only a matter of when, not if, this new coal technology will be a great benefit to America and other nations, as well as to coal-rich Kentucky.

With projections of under ten years for significant power generation, it's not unreasonable to see this being a benefit fairly soon. That's good news for everyone in the coal business, as well as it being a new energy source for numerous products and services. That means more good-paying jobs, and Kentucky and America would be at the center of it.

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