Friday, November 14, 2014
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
This meeting brings together a broad range of Manufacturers and Suppliers of Truck, Trailer, and Heavy Duty Equipment with the Heavy Duty Distributors that provide coverage throughout the US and Canada.
I will be posting a number of new products and innovations that were presented this week.
The first is a new device by the OTC division of SPX.
The Portable Diesel Particulate Filter Cleaner part number 5286 is a far less expensive, simple to use device that uses high pressure shop air through a unique "floating puck" head that forces air through each individual passageway in the filter to blow out the ash created during regeneration of the traps.
The manufacturer claims that in most cases the use of this unit can eliminate the need to separately "bake" units before blowing the ash out using one of the earlier type machines.
This unit also could simplify disposal of the ash material.
To see this unit, here is a link to a You Tube video that OTC has posted at: http://youtu.be/PqUTwRUhCi8
I was impressed with the quality of the machine and with the simplicity of its operation.
It can clean DPF's from 6" to 15.5" in diameter.
Another significant feature is the portability of this unit. It can operate on 110 or 220 vac and on 12 vdc.
I will be very interested to hear back from anyone who has working experience with this machine.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Diesel fuel is defined as a mineral fuel oil for diesel engines and is part of the larger grouping known as middle distillates.
Middle distillates including kerosene, diesel, and heating oils are derived from crude oil using Atmospheric Distillation, Vacuum Distillation, Hydrotreating, Hydrocracking, Fluid Catalytic Cracking, and other methods.
This is important because within the consuming public there is a misunderstanding that diesel in particular is a homogenous product that has the same quality and characteristics everywhere. This is not the case; diesel fuels are refined from crude oils of different origins with different characteristics, different compositions, and different qualities. This refining takes place in refineries of different design and widely different capabilities, run by companies and people with vastly different competencies, that are trying to produce products to meet an ever changing customer, financial, and regulatory environment.
The result is the fuel you get can vary significantly from place to place and even from day to day in the same place.
Also now due to regulatory and environmental concerns the addition of biofuels to much of the diesel supply adds a whole new level of complexity because the base stocks and production characteristics and quality vary drastically. The addition of these biofuels has many implications and produces many problems for users of diesel and heating fuels.
This is important because the newest engines are being designed to run on laboratory grade diesel fuels that are close to perfect. The “perfect” fuel does not exist in the real world. They are also being evaluated for operability, reliability, performance, and emissions in near perfect conditions under ideal duty cycles. This produces engines that have excellent characteristics under ideal conditions, but that often perform less well under real world conditions.
Fuel Additives and Supplements are used in many processes in the drilling, production, crude transportation, refining, product transportation, storage, and ultimately use of fuels.
Without these Additives and Supplements there is no usable fuel.
For our purposes we will mainly be discussing post refining use of these products.
Fuel Additives and Supplements provide many necessary and beneficial characteristics including detergency to prevent the buildup of gums, varnishes, and carbon deposits in fuel tanks, fuel lines, pumps, filters, injectors, on and around valves, pistons, piston rings, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR’s) valves, computer sensors, turbochargers, diesel particulate filters (DPF’s),catalytic particulate traps (CPT’s), selective catalytic reduction (SCR) units, and other places; antioxidants to improve oxidative stability which slows or limits the reaction of oxygen in producing gums and otherwise breaking down fuels during production, transportation, and storage; thermal stability (typically called metal deactivators) to slow or limit the breakdown of fuels during high temperature storage and when recirculated during the operation of a diesel engine; corrosion inhibitors to limit or prevent the corrosive action of the fuel on soft metals, plastics, and rubber; biocides to kill and or prevent the growth of biological agents in fuels; cetane improvers to improve the compression ignition characteristics of the fuel when used in diesel engines; anti-icing agents to prevent the formation of ice crystals in fuels; cold flow improvers (anti-gels) to lower the temperatures at which one or more of the following takes place: cloud point (CP), cold filter plug point (CFPP), or pour point (PP); lubricity improvers to increase the lubricating ability of fuels used in diesel engines; fuel conductivity improvers or anti-static agents to prevent the buildup of static electrical charges in fuels (an explosion hazard) during transportation and loading and unloading; wax anti-settling agents to prevent waxes from falling out of solution during extended cold weather; water dispersion to remove water, limiting formation or gums, varnishes, carbon deposits, corrosion, and icing, atomization improver to improve fuel atomization by injectors and burner nozzles.
A Brief History of Diesel Fuels with EPA Mandated Changes
Petroleum derived diesel fuel was originally created through Atmospheric or Straight Run Distillation where crude oil is heated until vaporization takes place and then condensed into various components.
The EPA began regulating diesel fuels in 1993. Prior to this time diesel fuel, kerosene used in On-Highway, Off-Highway, Locomotive and Marine fuels plus Home Heating and Industrial Fuel Oil’s were unregulated by the EPA. Diesel fuels had sulfur contents of up to and sometimes exceeding 5000 ppm.
The initial regulations taking effect in 1993 were designed to reduce sulfur content in on-highway fuels to 500 ppm or less. At this time the original fuel with a sulfur content greater than 500 ppm was termed High Sulfur Diesel (HSD) and fuel with 500 ppm or less was termed Low Sulfur Diesel (LSD) fuel. In June of 2006 On-Highway Diesel fuel changed to Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) with 15 ppm or less sulfur content.
In Europe they followed a similar path to reach what they now call no sulfur (10 ppm or less) fuel.
While HSD was banned from use in On-Highway vehicles in 1993, Non-Road (NR)(Off-Highway) and Locomotive and Marine (LM) or combined (NRLM) users were allowed to continue to use this fuel until June of 2007 when NR changed to LSD and then in June of 2010 when it changed to ULSD.
LM users were changed from HSD to LSD in June of 2007 and will change to ULSD in June of 2012.
Engines designed to run on HSD or LSD tend to suffer from lubricity problems when converted to ULSD. These problems include Buna and Nitrile O-Ring and Seals commonly used in those engines will dry out, shrink, and crack when sulfur content of the fuel is reduced. Also, the lower lubricity (lubricating ability) of ULSD causes rapid wear of pumps and injectors due to the lower quality metallurgical and hardness characteristics of these components in those engines.
The NR users are now seeing problems with existing equipment from the change to ULSD. It is expected that LM users will have significant problems with the change next year.
These problems tend to be more pronounced in construction, agricultural, prime power, standby power, locomotive, and marine equipment and engines that typically have a much longer service life and can be far more expensive to replace than is typically seen in On-Highway Trucks.
In Europe similar regulations exist (they were several years ahead of North America in promulgating and implementing these rules) and although they have in the past produced fuels superior to those found in North America, they are having significant difficulties due to changes both regulatory and market driven.
In the market driven category the North Sea Oil Fields have now peaked in production and are being a long slow decline. One of the results is that crude is now being imported into several countries from other regions of the world. This imported crude is often of lower quality and is more difficult to refine in existing refineries.
Another issue is that North Sea field’s decline they tend to produce more of the lower quality crudes. The problem with both these North Sea and imported crudes is that most of the refineries in Europe were designed and built after World War II to operate on high quality (light sweet) crudes. These refineries are not as flexible as those in North America and they have trouble processing lower quality crude oils.
Also, in countries such as Germany that have little crude oil, they have developed coal gasification to produce synthetic diesel fuels from domestic coal supplies. While this fuel has some good characteristics, it is very problematic in the area of engine and fuel system deposits.
In the regulatory category there are several mandates in place requiring that given percentages of biodiesel be blended into all of the diesel fuel sold. In the UK it started at 5% and is now going to 7%. There are a number of issues with these fuels such as base stocks and production methods. In the North America most biofuel is produced from soybean oil, with small amount from used cooking oils. In the EU, Rapeseed oil was long considered the standard; however we are seeing more and more Palm Oil which is readily available from many sources at lower cost. However the fuel derived from this oil is very highly saturated and as a result hard to work with. It has very poor cold weather characteristics and combusts less well than other lighter oils.
As a result, the European OEM’s and consumers, who 5 years ago didn’t believe in additives for their fuels, are now becoming educated to the fact that they do need them.
OEM’s have designed and built fuel systems and engines for fuels of a very high quality. Also, as more and more cars are built using diesel engines the balance between diesel and gasoline is rapidly shifting to a diesel bias. Most of their refineries were built primarily to make gasoline and they are having difficulty switching to making more diesel.
As a result Europe is now and will continue to see more of the problems we have seen in North America for many years.
A typical refining process in 2011:
It is important to understand that refiners today are trying to obtain the highest yields of the most profitable products created during the refining process and do so while using the least expensive crudes that their refineries can process. The product streams (different products or product components) produced by a refinery can be adjusted or managed through the changes in the refining process and through the use of chemicals and catalysts to produce more or less of a given item. For example many refineries in the US are primarily interested in producing gasoline as it is usually the most profitable and highest volume product. In order to do this they may produce a diesel fuel with less desirable characteristics.
A refinery designed to produce high quality lubricants from crude with levels of paraffin wax may produce diesel with an unusually high wax content which in the summer is great (more wax equals more Btu’s), however in cold weather this fuel can be very difficult to use as it gells at a much higher temperature than normal fuel would.
In the US market most diesel and gasoline is called fungible which means it equivalent. Diesel and gasoline are produced to “Pipeline” spec so that fuel entering a pipeline as for example diesel #2 in any of the half dozen refineries in East Texas can be sold as Diesel #2 under any brand all the way up the East Coast of the US. The only thing that differentiates one brand from another is the additive package added during the loading of the truck that delivers it.
What this means is that refiners are trying to make the least expensive product possible that will still meet those very minimal fungible (pipeline) specs.
Now the other side of the coin, the diesel engine.
Diesel engines have evolved at an incredible pace over the last decade or so. We have seen them go from a large, heavy, noisy, smelly, black smoke belching engine used in trucks, construction equipment, railroads, large ships, and other heavy duty uses to an ultra-clean, efficient, quiet powerplant suitable for everything from the smallest automobile to the largest truck and even larger.
Regulatory and market driven forces have brought about these changes and although primarily positive in nature, there have certainly been some negative consequences such as far great cost of purchasing, operating, and maintaining these engines; the need for nearly complete computer control of the fuel and emissions systems, the addition of many expensive and somewhat delicate sensors to support the computers, the difficulty in training personnel to maintain and repair these complicated engines and their support systems.
Whereas twenty years ago a diesel engine was almost bullet-proof in that with relatively minor maintenance they could run on almost any fuel available. They could be expected to idle indefinitely then go to full power and stay there with no negative consequences. Engines with oil changes intervals as high as 50,000 miles (under proper monitored conditions). The fuel systems with fuel filters not much more sophisticated than a gym sock could handle very poor quality fuels with minimal problems. Exhaust systems consisted of some 3-5” pipe and a $100.00 muffler, no EGR valves, no DPF’s, CPT’s, or SCR’s.
This was a time where you could buy a brand new 350 horse engine in the crate for $12,000.00. How different things are today, when six fuel injectors can exceed that $12,000.00 amount. Today we have to deal with fuel system pump and injector tolerances of less than 2 microns (a human hair is 80 to 100 microns thick), we have systems to divert, cool, and re-inject exhaust gases into the intake air for emissions, the $100.00 muffler has been replaced by DPF’s, CPT’s, and SCR’s worth many thousands of dollars, and all of which require expensive and time consuming maintenance, we have computer controls that do amazing things, but which also cost thousands of dollars to buy and maintain.
One of the most interesting things to consider is that we are trying to operate these engines on fuels that are far poorer in quality than the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) suggest or require.
For example; the Cetane rating of most fuel sold in the US is 40, the American Society for Testing of Materials (ASTM) minimum. However virtually every OEM owners/operators manual suggests or requires a Cetane rating of 45 or above; the ASTM minimum for diesel fuel lubricity is HFRR (High Frequency Reciprocating Rig) 520, whereas the Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) and nearly every OEM owners/operators manual suggests 460 or better (lower number show greater lubricity); ASTM allowable water content is approximately four times greater than OEM specs. We know we have injection system components with less than 2 micron tolerances yet we still use fuel filters that only protect to 10 microns because the quality of the fuel is so poor they will plug rapidly when smaller media is used.
We know that these fuels are causing many problems in the field not seen in the lab. Some examples are particulate formation caused by poor or incomplete combustion of the fuel. These particulates form deposits on and around the fuel injectors, exhaust valves, piston rings, piston ring lands, piston crowns, EGR valves, EGR coolers, turbochargers, DPF’s, and CPT’s.
These deposits cause a wide range of problems including; poor performance, poor fuel economy, poor operability, higher emissions, EGR Valve plugging and performance issues, EGR Cooler plugging, active and manual CPT regeneration required far more often than desired, the need for removal and manual cleaning of CPT’s far more often than should be necessary, damage to turbochargers, coating or damage to engine and emissions sensors.
Stability, both Oxidative and Thermal is related to contents of the crude oil and the various refining processes used today. This less stabile fuel deteriorates or breaks down rapidly causing the formations of gums, varnishes, and carbon deposits which in turn can cause or exacerbate problems of incomplete combustion.
Cetane Rating is a measure of how quickly a fuel will auto-ignite under compression. In diesel engines sooner is generally better. The 40 rated we fuel we use makes cold starting much harder, creates clouds of white smoke until the engine warms, makes the engine very loud, and limits the performance characteristics of any engine it is used in.
Raising Cetane makes an engine easier to start (particularly in cold weather), allows it to warm up faster, makes it quieter, allows the engine timing to be advanced which makes the engine more efficient for better mileage, performance and lower emissions.
Detergent, contrary to popular belief there is no requirement for detergent in diesel fuels in North America. There is very poor detergency in North American fuels. This leads to many of the combustion quality issues we see.
There is no actual liquid water spec for fuel. It is generally agreed that there shouldn’t be any liquid water, but no real requirement. Permissible Dissolved Water level is unacceptably high resulting in gum formation, corrosion, and biological growth problems.
With the 2008 change to D975 the ASTM specification for diesel fuel that now allows up to 5% biodiesel to be added to #2 fuel without notification provided to the purchaser, there are new layers of complication being added to existing problems.
Biodiesel is very hygroscopic and is capable of holding as much as 1% dissolved water, approximately 10 times that of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD). This ability to hold water can and does lead to more aggressive gum formation, more corrosion problems, and greater problems with biological growth in fuels. Biodiesel also has less Btu’s per gallon and as it is based on a plant oil or animal fat, will turn rancid when stored for long periods. It produces higher levels of NOx when burned.
When biodiesel is blended with regular diesel it acts to destabilize the fuel and worsens its cold weather characteristics. The use of blended biodiesel becomes more problematic based on several factors including the base stock from which the biodiesel is made, the type and quality of the processes being used to produce the biofuel, the level of dissolved water, the Free Fatty Acids (FFA’s), the percentage of the biofuel blended with the petroleum diesel, the quality of the petroleum diesel being used, and the conditions and temperatures involved when the blending takes place.
Where all this leads is to the need for Supplemental or Remedial Additization in all diesel and heating fuels.
Under the current regulations and market conditions the quality of the fuels being produced and offered for commercial applications and to the general public does not meet the requirements or needs of the engines and emissions control systems being sold and used.
It is possible to Supplement or Remediate through Additization nearly all fuels to meet or exceed those requirements and needs.
It is cost effective for an end user whether commercial, industrial, railroad, marine, or the general public to Additize their fuels to Supplement or Remediate them to necessary levels.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Gas to Liquids - Another Piece of the Puzzle
We have all seen pictures of oil wells both on land and platforms on the water where there is a constant flame burning off gases that contaminate the oil.
When you drill for oil you almost always get gas. If it is not considered cost effective to build a gas pipeline to transport the gas it is known as “Stranded Gas” and is flared off, wasting trillions of Btu’s of energy and releasing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere with absolutely no benefit.
Also in refining operations, there are gases released that are also flared off.
In many landfills you will see a tower used to flare off Methane generated by the continuous breakdown of organic materials.
One potential improvement to the world’s fuel pool could be the updating of the process used by Germany during World War II to alleviate its constant oil shortages. It was originally designed to convert coal to liquid fuels, however variations are capable of converting gases such as Natural Gas, Methane, Refinery Gases, and others to liquid fuels such as diesel and gasoline.
The use of Gas to Liquid Fuel Technology can help stretch our fossil fuel supplies and reduce CO2 released into the atmosphere.
More information available at: www.lcbamarketing.com
Post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions here.
Copyright 2009 – William Richards
Friday, April 10, 2009
Shell Oil has recently begun advertising their Shell V-Power “Nitrogen Enriched” Gasoline.
Here are some facts to consider:
1. The earth’s atmosphere is approximately 78% nitrogen
2. Nitrogen is an inert gas that is not combustible
3. Nitrogen atoms are larger than oxygen atoms
4. Nitrogen when combusted with fuel and Oxygen creates Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
5. NOx when combined with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) creates petrochemical smog.
Shell claims that fusing (their term) nitrogen with their detergent creates a more stable, longer lasting detergent that will be more effective in preventing gunk (their term) deposits (my term) from building up on the valves and other combustion chamber areas.
It would seem to me that adding Nitrogen will make the combustion process less efficient and could possibly lower combustion temperatures. This would seem to be the opposite of the desired effect.
It would also seem that adding Nitrogen could raise the NOx emissions from the engine which would tend to increase smog production, again the opposite of the desired effect.
I definitely applaud the idea of raising detergent levels in all gasolines. This is a quick and inexpensive way to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.
The whole Nitrogen thing is nothing other than another marketing ploy. Shell and many other refiners have attempted to convince the consumer that they are doing something unique and wonderful, when in reality they simply want to sell more and or charge more than their competitors.
Shell needs fewer “Cutesy” TV commercials and more science, or at least they should provide some documentation to support thier claims.
If you want to do the best thing for your gasoline powered vehicle, look for fuels containing “Top Tier” fuel additives used at the manufactures “Top Tier” levels or simply purchase and regularly use aftermarket “tank additives” that meet or exceed the “Top Tier’ requirements.
Please let me know what you think, post your comments, ideas, and suggestions here.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Most fuel dispensing nozzles are made from nickel plated aluminum. When Urea is dispensed through such a nozzle, the nickel plating will react changing the Diesel Emission Fluid (DEF) to where it can cause damage to the SCR (Catalytic Converter) system.
The longer the Urea is in contact with the nozzle the more potentially damaging the fluid will become. What this means is that in high volume situations, the fluid will have limited contact with the nozzle and the likelihood of fluid being contaminated is significantly reduced. In lower volume situations where there may be extended periods of time between use, there is a higher likelihood of contaminating the fluid.
It may be desirable to go to a nozzle made of unplated metal or possibly even a composite material to prevent this contamination.
It is considered vital that a non-fuel nozzle be used to prevent the possibility of accidentally adding diesel to the DEF or DEF to the Diesel Fuel. Either mistake will likely cause rapid and catastrophic failure of the engine and or the SCR System.
In Europe a company called ElaFlex provides the defacto standard for AdBlue (Urea) nozzles that have a unique feature that prevents the AdBlue (Urea) from being added to the fuel tank.
ElaFlex has recently signed an agreement with OPW to provide these nozzles to the US and Canadian markets.
We will be providing a comprehensive list of suggestions on how to safely and cost effectively dispense Urea for your fleet operation.
Copyright 2009 – William Richards
Monday, April 6, 2009
I recently had the privilege of speaking to members of the New York State Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) during their annual conference in Canandaigua NY.
The discussion was on Alternative Fuels and I spoke on the future of Alternative Fuels regarding how it will affect Public Works Fleets and Operations.
The attendees were very knowledgeable and very interested in the how the alternative fuels are likely to impact their operations.
This fuel cell vehicle operates on compressed hydrogen gas that when fueled with hydrogen derived from electrolysis powered by non-fossil fuels is a true zero emissions vehicle. It is truly amazing to drive this vehicle and even when following it you can actually see that the emissions are water vapor.
While we are a long way from having cost competitive hydrogen available at the local gas station, this is a practical, vehicle that can be driven without any special training and the only unusual consideration is in making sure you know where the next fuel station is located.
Monroe County (Rochester) NY is at the forefront of making alternative fuels into mainstream products. They have recently completed a new state of the art fueling center that provides gasoline, gasohol (E20 and E85), diesel (biodiesel blends from B5 through B20), CNG, and Hydrogen all in a modern, efficient, and safe Green Fueling Station.
Monroe County and its forward thinking team lead by County Executive Maggie Brooks who have not only acknowledged the future, but have embraced it. They have recognized that there is a lot Federal, State, and private money available to municipal governments that are willing to lead the way into a greener future.
They are benefiting from grants for infrastructure, equipment, and even free or low cost vehicles. They are able to take advantage of research initiatives by elite universities and world class manufacturers who are providing testing resources that would be virtually unobtainable outside of governmental involvement.
This proactive approach has benefited not only Monroe County, but will provide long term benefits to the private sector in the region surrounding their operations.
We strongly believe that this type of public leadership will directly translate into benefits for the taxpayers and residents both now and in the future.
I want to thank Dave Butters, John Graham (retired), and Bob Hamilton of Monroe County for providing me with the opportunity of speaking to this auspicious group.
Monday, March 16, 2009
OPEC, at its meeting Sunday (March 15, 2009) in Vienna decided not to ask members to cut output any further. This decision will hold off any official changes until the next meeting in May.
As is normal for this group of market manipulators, they cannot agree on what to do or how to do it, so they create a press release that tries to convince the not too bright, that they are maintaining production levels to “help” with the worlds current economic problems.
Nothing could be further from reality or the truth. They did not cut production for a host of reasons, first and foremost is that many of their members are ignoring the previous reduction of 2.2 million barrels per day that supposedly took effect in December. Even by their numbers (which are far too generous) they are only getting 80% compliance from their members on those production limits.
Why you may ask are they unable to control production and force up prices? Well the biggest issue is that many of these OPEC Countries (Note: OPEC Countries theoretically control about 40% of the world’s oil) spend their petro-dollars as fast or even faster than they take them in. Venezuela needs oil to be about US$80.00 per barrel just to pay the bills.
Many of the Middle Eastern countries have gone on staggering spending sprees basically acting as socialist entities.
These countries temporarily import workers to do their dirty work, while their own citizens do less and less but keep getting ever growing government handouts to live on (this sounds vaguely like some western country I may have heard of).
They have spent hundreds of billions on infrastructure projects and other enticements to try and bring foreign businesses to their countries before the oil runs out (yes, it will run out).
However all of this has been based on cheap capital and the idea that oil would keep going up in price forever.
Well fast forward to today, There is more crude oil sitting in storage than at any time in history, the demand is off by more than 1 million barrels per day (Note: this is another manipulated number and the reality is that demand is off by two or even three times this number), the economy in the US and now the rest of the industrialized world is contracting and will likely do so for a year or more, before starting a slow, painful, and just plain ugly recovery, and it appears that there is at least a glimmer of hope that the world including the US will finally wake up and recognize that the way we have been using energy for the last 100 years is unsustainable and that we need to do things now, not is 20 years to fix the problems.
All of this leads me to some oversimplified conclusions on oil pricing over the next year or two. If there is reduced economic activity worldwide there will be less demand for oil. The oil inventories will likely continue to grow as OPEC and Russia will need to pump more and more to make up for the lower per barrel prices.
Right now there is a concerted effort to hold and try to push crude prices up. However to keep oil in storage costs a lot of money every day. At some point traders and speculators will decide that they cannot afford to pay $100,000.00 a day to park crude in a tanker because the price is not going up enough make it profitable. When this happens, we could see oil flood the markets at levels not seen since the 1970’s. This will then further exacerbate the problems of the oil producing countries who will try to pump even more.
Short of a war (not out of the question) or a cataclysmic natural disaster, it is hard to see crude oil going up significantly anytime soon.
Refiners and some marketers are likely to benefit as crude prices decline and more finished product becomes available. In some areas where there is tightly controlled distribution there may months or even years of high profitability due to reduction in cost followed more slowly by reduction in retail prices.
I have regrettably spent my life creating a carbon footprint of embarrassing proportions. I am now working on reducing not only my negative impact on the world, but on creating new and better ways for everyone to do the same without destroying their livelihoods or lifestyles.
Please post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions here.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Let’s start with the basics, “What is coal?” Coal is a sedimentary rock made up mostly of carbon, with varying amounts of sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and lesser amounts of many contaminants including mercury and other poisonous compounds.
We believe coal is primarily made up of plant material that has partially degraded, compressed and through this pressure and with time and other geologic forces been transformed into the many forms of what we refer to as coal. Some of these forms are Peat, Lignite, Bituminous, Anthracite, and Graphite.
The process of photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide into carbon, the conversion of the dead plant matter into coal sequesters the carbon in the ground. If we look at this in a very big picture sense, coal is the energy of the sun converted and stored. When the coal is burned, that carbon is released in the form of carbon dioxide. This could be a manageable cycle, however what is happening today, is that millions of years worth of this stored sunlight bound up in the form of carbon is being released in a relatively short period of time. This rapid release has overloaded the systems (the worldwide environments) ability to convert the carbon dioxide back into some stored form.
What can we do about this problem? First we must burn (or otherwise convert) this coal as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Large scale coal gasification and burning to create electricity will create fewer more easily managed source of pollution. These very large sources can be more easily forced to the use technology needed to clean the exhaust stream coming from such a facility.
Next we need to develop ways to reuse or store the Carbon Dioxide (CO2). There are ideas that would pump this material back into the earth either as part of oil pumping operations or into decommissioned mines.
I believe that we need to consider alternatives that would use some significant part of this CO2 to grow Algae as part of a closed loop energy system (See previous article on the Richards Cycle) or some other photosynthetic process that would convert the CO2 back into a safe storable (or reusable) form.
Coal can also be converted into high quality liquid fuel s (gasoline and diesel) through several processes. If we can create a more earth-friendly method of doing this, we could significantly reduce our dependence on and need for imported oil.
Whether or not Coal can ever be Clean, I don’t know. What I am certain of is that we can develop much cleaner, safer, and eco-friendly methods to mine and use this high quality domestic energy source.
Please post your comments, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.