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Can renewable energy really stop GHG emissions and global warming?

Renewable energy is slowly but steadily becoming a choice of energy of the people due to its potential to cut GHG emissions and global warming. The  changing weather pattern  around the world in recent times  are testimony for a warming globe. Can renewable energy really cut the GHG emissions and cut the global warming predicted by scientists? Thousands of large coal- fired power plants are already under implementation or planning stages. According to World’s resources institute, their key findings are :

1. According to IEA estimates, global coal consumption reached 7,238 million tonnes in 2010. China accounted for 46 percent of consumption, followed by the United States (13 percent), and India (9 percent).

2. According to WRI’s estimates, 1,199 new coal-fired plants, with a total installed capacity of 1,401,278 megawatts (MW), are being proposed globally. These projects are spread across 59 countries. China and India together account for 76 percent of the proposed new coal power capacities.

3. New coal-fired plants have been proposed in 10 developing countries: Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Laos, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan. Currently, there is limited or no capacity for domestic coal production in any of these countries.

4. Our analysis found that 483 power companies have proposed new coal-fired plants. With 66 proposed projects, Huaneng (Chinese) has proposed the most, followed by Guodian (Chinese), and NTPC (Indian).

5. The “Big Five” Chinese power companies (Datang, Huaneng, Guodian, Huadian, and China Power Investment) are the world’s biggest coal-fired power producers, and are among the top developers of proposed new coal-fired plants.

6.  State-owned power companies play a dominant role in proposing new coal-fired plant projects in China, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa, Czech Republic and many other countries.

7. Chinese, German, and Indian power companies are notably increasingly active in transnational coal-fired project development.

8. According to IEA estimates, the global coal trade rose by 13.4 percent in 2010, reaching 1,083 million tonnes.

9. The demands of the global coal trade have shifted from the Atlantic market (driven by Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States) to the Pacific market (driven by Japan, China, South Korea, India and Taiwan). In response to this trend, many new infrastructure development projects have been proposed.

10. Motivated by the growing Pacific market, Australia is proposing to increase new mine and new port capacity up to 900 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) — three times its current coal export capacity.

The above statistics is a clear sign that GHG emissions by these new coal-fired power plants will increase substantially. A rough estimation indicates that these new plants will emit Carbon dioxide at the rate of 1.37 mil tons of CO2/hr or 9.90 billion tons of CO2 /yr in addition to the existing 36.31 Gigatons/yr (36.31 billion tons/yr) in 2009. (According to If this is true, the total CO2 emissions will double in less than 4 years. If the capacity of new PV solar plants are also increased substantially then the CO2 emissions from PV solar plants will also contribute additionally to the above. There is no way the CO2 reduction to the 2002 level  can be achieved and the world will be clearly heading for disastrous consequences due to climate change.The best option to cut GHG emissions while meeting the increasing power demand around the world will be to recycle the Carbon emissions in the form of a Hydrocarbon with the help of Hydrogen. The cheapest source of Hydrogen is coal. The world has no better option than gasifying the coal instead of combusting the coal.

Capturing carbon and recycling it as a fuel.

Solar power, wind power and other renewable energies generated 6.5%[1] of the world’s power in 2012.  This is part of a rising trend[2], but there is a very long way to go before renewable sources generate as much energy as coal and other fossil fuels.  Solar panel of 1m2 size requires 2.4kg of high-grade silica and Coke and it consumes 1050 Kwh of electricity, mostly generated by fossil fuel based power plants. But 1m2 solar panel can generate only 150kwh/yr and it will need at least 7 years to generate the power used to produce 1m2 solar panel in the first place. More solar panels mean more electricity consumption and more GREEN HOUSE GAS EMISSIONS. With increasing number of coal-fired power plants under implementation or planning and growing popularity of  Solar power plants around the world the GHG emissions are  likely to increase in the future to the detrimental of the climate.

It could take at least 30 years (probably a lot longer) before renewable energy is as strong in the marketplace as non-renewable sources.  In consequence, there is a need to use fossil fuels more effectively and less detrimentally until the renewables can play a major role in global energy production.

One approach tried for more than a decade has been carbon capture, which stops polluting materials getting into the atmosphere; however subsequent storage of the collected materials can make this process expensive.  Now an Australian based company has gone one step further and designed a process that not only collects CO2 emissions, but also turns it into a fuel by using the same coal!

Clean Energy and Water Technologies has developed an innovative solution to avoid carbon emissions from power plants. The novel approach uses coal to capture carbon dioxide emissions (CO2 ) from coal-fired power plants and convert them into synthetic natural gas (SNG).  Synthetic natural gas would then replace coal as a fuel for further power generation and the cycle would continue. No coal is required for further power generation.

Through this method, the captured Carbon could be recycled again and again in the form of a Hydrocarbon fuel (SNG) with no harmful gas emissions. Carbon is an asset and not a liability. If Carbon is simply burnt away just to generate heat and power then it is a bad science, because the same Carbon can be used to generate several products by simply recycling it instead of venting out into the atmosphere. Carbon is the backbone of all valuable products we use every day from plastics to life saving drugs!

As well as seeking a patent for this breakthrough innovation, Clean Energy and Water Technologies is seeking investment for a demonstration plant. The concept has already been proven and a reasonable scale of demonstration will convince the governments and companies around the world to look at this alternative solution to the GHG (Greenhouse gas) emission and possibly meet a meaningful target on Carbon emissions within reasonable time frame.

Once demonstrated, it would then be possible to retrofit current coal-fired power stations with the new technology, increasing their economic sustainability and reducing their impact on the environment.

  1. The Economic Pressures

Power is an integral part of human civilization. With the steady increase in human population and industrialization the demands for energy and clean water has reached unprecedented levels. The gap between the demand and supply is steadily pushing the cost of power and water higher, whilst the supply of coal, oil and gas is dwindling. The prospect of climate change has compounded problems.

Many countries around the world have started to use renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydro and geo-thermal power; but emerging economies such as India and China are unable to meet their demands without using fossil fuels.  At present, it is far cheaper to use the existing infrastructures associated with non-renewable energy, such as coal-fired power stations.

Renewable energy sources are intermittent and need large storage and large initial investment, with advanced technologies pushing the cost of investment higher.  Governments could use environmental tariffs on power use to help make renewable energy more competitive, but politicians know that the public tend to not like such an approach.

  1. Demonstration Plant:

The estimated investment required for a demonstration plant is likely to be $10 million; however the potential for a  good return on investment is high, as shown by the following estimated calculation for a 100MW plant.

  • A 100MW coal-fired power plant will emit 98 Mt/hr CO2
  • Coal consumption will be about 54Mt/hr
  • To convert 98Mt/hr CO2 into SNG, the plant needs to generate 390,000m3/hr syngas by coal gasification.
  • The gasification plant will require 336 Mt/hr coal and 371 m3/hr water.
  • The net water requirement will be : 95.70m3/hr
  • The SNG generated by the above plant will be : 95,700m3/hr and steam as by-product : 115Mt/hr.
  • Potentially SNG can generate a gross power of 500 MWS by a Gas turbine with combined cycle operation.
  • The plant can generate 500MW (five times more than the coal-fired plant) from CO2 emissions.
  • Existing 100MW coal-fired power plant can use SNG in place of coal and sell the surplus SNG to consumers.
  • Surplus SNG will be about 75,000 m3/hr.( 2400 mm Btu/hr) with sale value of $36,000/hr. @ $15/mmBtu.
  • Annual sales revenue from sale of surplus SNG will be : $ 300 mil/yr.
  • The entire cost of coal  gasification and SNG  plant can be recovered back in less than 5 years.
  1. Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon capture and storage is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground geological formation. The aim is to prevent the release of large quantities of CO2  into the atmosphere. It is a potential means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming and ocean acidification.  The long-term storage of CO2 is a relatively new concept. The first commercial example was Weyburn in 2000.

Carbon capture and storage applied to a modern conventional power plant could reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by about 80–90%, but may increase the fuel needs of a coal-fired plant by 25–40%. These and other system costs are estimated to increase the cost of the energy produced by 21–91% for purpose-built plants. Applying the technology to existing plants could be even more expensive.Image

  1. Global Warming

Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century and its projected continuation. Since the early 20th century, Earth’s mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980. Scientists are more than 90% certain that it is primarily caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels by coal-fired power plants.

  1. Greenhouse Gases

Without the earth’s atmosphere the temperature across almost the entire surface of the earth would be below freezing.  The major greenhouse gases are water vapour, which causes about 36–70% of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide (CO2 ), which causes 9–26%; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9%; and ozone (O3), which causes 3–7%. According to work published in 2007, the concentrations of CO2  and methane have increased by 36% and 148% respectively since 1750. These levels are much higher than at any time during the last 800,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores.

  1. The Future of Global Warming?

Climate model projections were summarized in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They indicated that during the 21st century the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 1.1 to 2.9 °C (2 to 5.2 °F) for their lowest emissions scenario and 2.4 to 6.4 °C (4.3 to 11.5 °F) for their highest.

  1. The Impact of Global Warming?

Future climate change and associated impacts will vary from region to region around the globe. The effects of an increase in global temperature include a rise in sea levels and a change in the amount and pattern of precipitation, as well a probable expansion of subtropical deserts. Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with the continuing retreat of glacierspermafrost and sea ice. Other likely effects of the warming include a more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events including heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, ocean acidification and species extinctions due to shifting temperature regimes.

There is a divided opinion among scientists on climate science.  Major power consuming countries like the US, Europe, Japan and Australia are reluctant to sign the Kyoto Protocol and agree to a legally binding agreement. This has resulted in non-cooperation among the nations and the world is divided on this issue.  Such disagreement has hampered development of non-renewable energy

Ahilan Raman is the inventor of the innovative process mentioned in the article.  If you have any further questions or interested in becoming a part of this innovative technology, please feel free to contact him directly by writing to this blog.



[1] Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Excludes large hydro projects).

[2] Up from 5.7% in 2011, and 2.4 percentage points up on the 2008 figure.

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