Clean Coal

Coal has been a major driver of industrial and economic progress worldwide since its major role fuelling the industrial revolution. This fundamental and versatile material still plays a vital role in the world economy today. Canada’s 10 billion tonnes of coal reserves represent more energy than all of our oil, natural gas and oil sands combined. As described in Canada’s Clean Coal Technology Roadmap, clean coal technologies are an integral part of coal’s continued production and use in Canada.

About half of Canada’s coal production is exported, but Canada’s steel industry and electrical power generators are major users of metallurgical and thermal coal respectively. Alberta produces coal for both metallurgical applications and as a thermal fuel. Alberta is a significant user of thermal coal for electrical power generation, and coal-fired generation represents a major portion of global electrical supply. Canada derives approximately 20% of its electricity from coal. Over 40% of worldwide electrical generation is fuelled by coal, and with prevalent use in emerging economies, this number is expected to increase.

The production of coal involves either surface or underground mining. The consumption of coal generates particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, heavy-metal release [mercury] and CO2. Clean coal technologies look at the reduction of these by-products in a variety of methods. As coal-fired electrical generation represents a ‘large stationary emitter’ of CO2, there is an integration of this theme with the Carbon Storage research of the Centre.

The World Coal Institute provides a tremendous resource of further material.

Research under the clean coal theme focuses on: coal cleaning and upgrading of both thermal and coking coals, multi pollutant control strategies, clean coal technologies to capture CO2 and CH4 in order to reduce GHG and other emissions, value added products, and underground coal gasification. By design, research activities in the coal upgrading and clean coal technologies elements of this theme are strongly linked with the mineral processing theme. Some key technologies under this theme are; fine coal cleaning to produce ultra-clean coal, coal-water slurry, novel sorbent and underground coal gasification for reducing emissions other than GHG emissions, oxy-firing and gasification for carbon capture. Efficient use of this resource with minimal environmental impact is imperative if coal is to remain a prime energy source and become a key petrochemical source. The research initiatives in C5MPT are aligned with the technology gaps identified in the Clean Coal Technology Roadmap of Canada.

The major outcomes from this theme will be:

  • Application of advanced characterization techniques to assess and upgrade Alberta coals for emerging utilization and capture technologies, particularly for gasification;
  • Development of new sorbents for mercury and multi-pollutant capture;
  • Optimal strategies and systems for coal upgrading and feed preparation for emerging clean coal technologies;
  • Synergy in co-gasification of coal, pet-coke and biomass;
  • Commercializable technologies for value added products from coal and ash products;
  • Strategies for coal blending for coke making.