Monday, May 28, 2007

Hoped-For Alternatives

At the present time, and for the foreseeable future, fossil fuels provide up to 80% of the world's primary supply of energy. Coal, at 25% is right behind oil at 35%, while natural gas represents 20% of the energy supply-usage. The remaining 20% is made up of nuclear (6.5%), hydro (2.2%), biomass (11.1%), solar, wind and geothermal (0.4%).

A new type of coal-burning technology has appeared on the horizon of potentialties. The coal is burned under extremely high pressure (1,250 psi) with the resulting steam also kept under high pressure inside tubes, between 2,500 and 3,700 psi. In the process, nothing is left in the furnace but ash (with commercial applications). The pollutants; sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury, particulate matter - have been captured in the furnace exhaust, passed through a condensing heat exchanger resulting in very hot water, itself a source of energy.

When the exhaust fumes release the water, the remaining pollutants are released with it; directing some of the C02 back to the furnace, cooled, then cleansed. The extreme atmospheric pressures used in the process means the generating plant can be relatively smaller than conventional clean-coal furnaces, while producing a far greater benefit in pollution control and greater, more reliable energy production.

As yet another alternative for energy-producing needs in a world hard-pressed to find sufficient energy sources, yet having to worry about the deleterious effect all of this is having on our environment, plentiful coal utilized with newly-discovered efficiencies can present a partial answer to some of our needs. Canada and the U.S. have great coal reserves, as have China and India.

CanMet scientists, particularly Bruce Clements of Natural Resources Canada, are working to perfect this new generation of coal-energy fusion, along with its inventor, Alex Fassbender whose ThermoEnergy Corporation based in Hudson, Massachusetts is spearheading this new initiative. This radically new clean-coal technology with its carbon dioxide capture and cheap power values may give North America and other interested users of energy a leg up in the future in our ongoing energy needs.

Now, all we need to do in addition, is to convince ourselves that wasteful use of energy on the lifestyles we have become so wonderfully accustomed to, require an ameliorating process as well, to ensure that the marriage of more careful energy usage and new technologies make us all more responsive to nature's needs as well as ours.

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