What is Clean Coal?
Clean Coal describes the various technologies available to mitigate the effects of coal combustion on the environment. These effects include the release of pollutants – such as oxides of sulphur (SOx) and nitrogen (NOx) – and more recently, the focus has been on greenhouse gas emissions, principally carbon dioxide (CO2).
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers the opportunity to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power stations by capturing the
emitted by the use of coal and other fossil fuels and injecting it for storage in deep geological formations.
The Need for Clean Coal
Proven world coal reserves amount to around 900 billion tonnes, equivalent to 125 years supply at current rates of usage. Against this background, and with the massive growth in coal use in economies such as China and India, climate change policies need to include clean coal as part of the solution.
Whilst CCS will add significantly to the costs of electricity generation from coal, costs are likely to be less than those for some other near-zero-carbon technologies. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), without CCS, limiting a rise in global temperature to 2°C will be that much more difficult, and up to 70% more costly.
In its 2007 Energy Package, the European Commission stated that “while the transition from traditional coal to Sustainable Coal will certainly not be costless, it may prove a priceless contribution to climate change mitigation.”
Since then, the EU has continued to promote CCS through funding packages such as the NER 300, but for projects to come to fruition, the EU’s ambition must be complemented by support and funding from Member States.